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UNIVERSITY OF N.C AT CH^^^^^^
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the last date stamped under "Date Due." If not on hold, it may
be renewed by bringing it to the library.
SEP 2 .9 Z012
FORM NO 513,
The Romance of an Emergency
* * • .Rlip's'
Mrs. G. S. REANEY
AUTHOR OF « «
"UNDER orders" • «
"just in time" « «
"glady's vow," etc.
LONDON • « «
HENRY J. DRANE
(V£ OLDE ST. BRIDE'S PRESSE)
« SALISBURY HOUSE
SALISBURY SQUARE «
« FLEET STREET, E.C.
Copyrighted in America
Digitized by the Internet Archive
For the general reader to follow this story fully it
may be well to call attention to a fact but little
understood by the world at large, namely, that the
" Society " which moves in our midst (numerically at
almost a standstill as shown by the last religious
census, but never more forcible than to-day in its
known adherence to " first principles "), the Society of
Friends, so often spoken of as " the Quakers," claims
to do its part to purify commercial life by devoting a
certain proportion of its members to all legitimate
trades. Comparatively recently the Society announced
amongst themselves that certain branches of business
needed very special support, and an appeal was made
to young men, some with university training, choosing
their life-work to devote their powers and energies in
the direction specified, and with marvellous results.
England owes far more than is usually known to the
" Quaker Firms " whose care — physical, moral and
spiritual — of their employes forms a splendid example
in our midst, an example which, if followed generally,
would go far to settle the nation's problems so
associated with overcrowding and underpaying.
I. An Alarming Notice - . - - 9
II. A Way out of the Difficulty - - 14
III. An Important Decision - - - - 22
IV. The Bridegroom-Elect - - - - 35
V. How Gertrude Hastings came to
leave Home 45
VI. Aubrey Rice's Secret - - - - 57
VII. The New Squire "At Home" - - 71
VIII. Sunset Illuminings .... 86
IX. Gertrude Hastings' Promise to her
X. An Angry Rector 105
XL Aubrey Rice in new Surroundings - 115
XII. A Bank Holiday Visitor - - - 124
XIII. A Lost Latch-key 132
XIV. A Grave Bargain 142
XV. "No Answer" 157
XV 1. The First "Caller" after the Wedding 170
XVIL " And IT WAS Night " - - - - 184
XVIII. The Squire makes His Will - - - 203
XIX. No. "75" 213
XX. Sick-room Confidences - - - - 221
XXI. A Story told to Sympathetic Ears - 232
XXII. A Sunday Service in the Convict Prison 242
XXIII. How "The Unexpected" Happened - 252
XXIV. The Farm Visitors - - - - 265
XXV. "Down ON His Luck" - - - - 277
XXVI. Eight Thousand Empty Chairs - - 293
XXVII. Down Eastwards 308
XXVIII. An Interview AT THE Manor - - 317
XXIX. Where had HE MET HIM BEFORE ? - - 324
XXX. Stanley Pritchard's Confession - - 341
XXXI. News FOR the Rector - - - - 351
XXXII. The Man with a Plate - - - - 361
XXXIII. These Days and Those - - - - 376
THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
AN ALARMING NOTICE
The Misses Edgcombe were in a terrible
difficulty. Never since the death of their father,
the Squire — which took place some eight years
previous to the events about to be narrated —
had anything happened to move them in so
grave a manner.
"It is too dreadful to contemplate," exclaimed
Miss Maria, the elder of the two ladies, but, by
long custom, filling the place of the younger.
**Oh, Matilda, what j^a// we do? My nerves
are all in a twitter, and I feel it will take a life-
time to get over the shock!"
Pull yourself together, Maria, and remember
we are on our dignity — very much so — and must
think of a way out of this emergency as befits
our position ! I admit I feel as much inclined
to laugh as to cry," said Miss Matilda. I am
thoroughly upset," and she closed a very small
hand, and brought it down upon the table near
lO THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
to which she was sitting with a force which quite
explained how it happened that she took the
lead in all things concerning home life, leaving
her sister to take a second place in matters
where great decisions had to be made.
The cause of the trouble which so terribly
excited these gently-born ladies — neither of
whom would see fifty again — would be difficult
to define without certain explanations. Let it
be said then at once that these good women,
cultured and refined to a degree, had from baby-
hood — as accorded with the spirit of the times
when they were children^ — been cared for and
looked after in a way which left np room for self-
reliance, or, for the matter of that, for freedom
of thought or of action.
In early days the high-class nurse had taught
her little ladies " to play softly, taking care
never to soil their pretty pinafores," or to
move about quickly enough to put their hair
out of curl. Then when the old-fashioned but
most estimable governess reigned in place of
the nurse, she had ruled with the same dictum.
Her young pupils must be gentle at all times
— never speak when with their elders unless
spoken to ; learn all they could but never have
an opinion of their own. It was not for real
ladies to be self-assertive "—and so forth.
When in due time the ''little ladies" of
former days had grown into the very gentle
AN ALARMING NOTICE
and unobtrusive girls of a later period, and
were presented at Court by their elderly aunt,
Lady Chingfield — their mother having perforce
excluded herself from all society (being, since
the birth of her second daughter, a chronic
invalid) — they took their places in the world of
society in a colourless, indefinite sort of way,
neither having an idea for which she could
claim originality, both depending absolutely and
utterly upon " dear papa'* on the one hand, or
dear mamma " on the other, according to the
merits of the occasion requiring counsel or
Neither of the two had been troubled by
romances which are so inevitably associated
with' youth. Perhaps their natural shyness and
reserve placed a "no thoroughfare" for would-be
wooers. It was an open secret that they were
rich. The Squire had no ambition to marry
his daughters, and Mrs. Edgcombe thought
" they were best as they were," and when at
length death was about to end her weary,
suffering life, she even went so far as to make
them promise never to leave their dear
Nor did they ever dream of doing such a
thing. They lived their even-flowing, unevent-
ful lives with him in the quiet Manor House
until he suddenly left them in full possession of
the old home and the fifteen thousand a year
12 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
which went along with it. An accident in the
hunting-field brought the Squire's life to its
abrupt termination. His daughters, neither of
whom had up to that date looked her age,
seemed to grow older quickly, otherwise no
outward change marked even this period of
The pressure of business cares had never
come upon these ladies of whom I write, even
when bereft of both parents. John, the faith-
ful butler, who had started life at Edgcombe
Manor as page boy when the little daughters
of the home were still in the nursery, had been
for many years the Squire s confidential man,
and when his master died he relieved the ladies
of all worry concerning legal documents, inter-
viewing the family lawyer then and upon many
subsequent occasions on their behalf It was
well he was able to do this, for with him — the
faithful John — rested all the family history as
concerned the late Squire's property and
accounts, seeing the previous lawyer, of whom,
at the time of the Squire's death, the present
was barely a year or two the successor, had
perished in the midst of much valuable property,
the victim of a fire which had broken out in his
With this explanation before the reader, it is
comparatively easy to state the cause of the
Misses Edgcombe's great agitation upon the
AN ALARMING NOTICE
morning alluded to in the opening of this
John, the faithful butler, family servant, fac-
totum, and confidential friend, had intimated in
a well-worded letter addressed to both ladies,
that seeing he wanted to settle down in life
and make a home of his own, he must, with
regret, and most respectfully beg to give a
month's notice. Hoping the ladies w^ould find
some one to take his place, he would like to
leave their service on the forthcoming May
A WAY OUT OF THE DIFFICULTY
With John's letter before them the Misses
Edgcombe pathetically discussed their over-
whelming trouble, if discussion it could be
called when Miss Matilda ventured a remark
to which Miss Maria would reply, " Indeed,"
At length the younger sister rose and rang
the bell. To the page boy who came in answer
to the summons Miss Matilda said, " Ask John
to be kind enough to step this way."
" My dear Matilda, what are you doing ? "
exclaimed Maria with excitement, visibly tremb-
ling. "Could we not have sent him a little
note and spared ourselves a painful interview?"
We are only working in the dark while we
know nothing of Johns plans," said Matilda,
thoughtfully. Supposing he wants to marry
Hughes, our maid, why should they not continue
to live on here ? Not that I think he could be in
love with Hughes without our knowing some-
thing about it, but that is by way of suggestion.
I am prepared to meet John half-way if we can
arrive at a compromise."
A WAY OUT OF THE DIFFICULTY 1 5
" Certainly, Matilda," said Miss Maria, pen-
sively. Something, now you mention it,
might be done by way of compromise if
only — "
A knock at the door caused Miss Maria to
stop abruptly. John quickly followed upon his
knock, not waiting for the ''Come in" which
Miss Matilda tried to give in her usual tones of
He was a fine -looking man, about the
average height, with an expansive forehead,
and eyes which looked straight into the face of
the one to whom he happened to be speaking.
Like all men long accustomed to the position
he occupied, he had instinctively caught the
manners of the gentleman from those towards
whom his ministrations of service invariably led
him ; only in the lowered voice and the semi-
bow with which he was accustomed to receive an
order did he betray his calling.
At the present moment he stood before the
two ladies whose every wish it was his privilege
to consider a command — his whole attitude a
What do you please to want ? "
"We have sent for you, John," began Miss
Matilda, in reference to your letter this morn-
The lady spoke with a slight tremor in her
voice, but otherwise her manner was dignified.
1 6 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
John looked nervous, but he bowed mutely and
awaited further observation.
** Needless to say it gives us inexpressible
pain," continued Miss Matilda, " to think for a
moment of parting from an old servant whom
we have at all times, and especially since our
dear father's decease, so highly appreciated.
And we are greatly surprised, never having
even faintly thought of you as attached to any
one. I have sent for you " (the we " was
invariably dropped when referring to a matter
which depended upon her own definite action as
if to clear her sister from all responsibility), ** I
have sent for you to see if there could not be
some compromise : say we gave up certain
rooms for your own occupation, when married,
and you brought your wife to live under this
John cleared his throat, and seemed anxious
to interrupt the speaker at this point, but Miss
Matilda went on steadily —
"It is utterly impossible for us in our com-
plete isolation from our relations — the few we
have living — in what I may call our unprotected
and most dependent position — it is quite impos-
sible, as I was saying, to dispense with your
valuable services. It would be more than
either Miss Maria or myself could contemplate
with serenity of mind. You could, I trust,
make yourself happy under this roof, in spite
A WAY OUT OF THE DIFFICULTY 1 7
of altered circumstances, if she did not
object ? "
" I have not explained," stammered John,
his brow flushing as he looked Miss Matilda
straight in the face — he had no wish to conceal
anything, he was as straight and honest as the
day, and no one was more sure of this than the
lady to whom he directed his remarks — " I
have not explained, ma'am, that at present I
have no one in view. It is only my wish to
settle down. If I don't do it now, I feel I
never shall, and I would like to have a home of
my own ! "
" But surely, John, it would have been time
enough to talk of leaving us when you had met
with some one willing — willing to become your
wife ! " Miss Matilda said, quickly, and her tone
had a shade of relief in it, while her cheek
flushed visibly. After all, it was intensely droll
to be talking with the butler, John, about a
supposed love affair.
" I don't think I shall be long in finding
some one," John said, quietly, as unmoved as if
he were talking of engaging a servant for which
there was a vacancy upon the staff. Then
he added, thoughtfully, I do not suppose
I should be hard to please, provided the
some one I fix my mind upon is somewhere
about my own age ; that will be what I
mostly want. I have no thought to marry
THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
a young wife. My fancy is for some one
who will like pretty much to keep to the home
I should offer her ; one that I could speak of as
Abraham spoke of Sarah without a moment's
hesitation, when asked where she was, 'Behold,
in the tent ! ' I have a mind, ma'am, to take
things leisurely in my old age, and this seems
to me the best way to do it."
Doubtless you are right, John," said Miss
Matilda, " but you must see our side of the
question. It is far more painful to us than
could be possible under ordinary circumstances.
We have been all our lives so dependent upon
some one — it seems little short of a disaster to
my sister and myself to think of your leaving
" Of course," said John, looking a little ner-
vous, I am not that particular but what I
could wait a few weeks, ma'am, for the matter
of that ; so long as you accept my notice there
is no real hurry, as — as I can be looking about,
you see, for — for my wife."
*'Then let it remain so for the present, John,"
said Miss Matilda, with heightened colour — the
interview was costing her a good deal. Miss
Maria and I would not, of course, like to stand
in the way of your best interests, and we will
think the matter over, and perhaps there will
be a way out of the difficulty."
Miss Matilda threw herself back in her chair
A WAY OUT OF THE DIFFICULTY 1 9
and took up her needlework and John felt him-
self dismissed. Scarcely had the door closed
upon his retreating form than Miss Maria, who
had maintained perfect silence during the inter-
view, broke down completely in a fit of hysterical
Control your feelings, sister," said Miss
Matilda, her own lip trembling and her voice
no longer firm. We are certainly passing
under a cloud of sorrow, but we must bear up
and maintain the dignity of our ancestry. Of
course, things would have been quite different if
John had not been here as long as we can
remember — indeed, he seems our link with the
past, a kind of pleasant memory associated with
our dear parents' lifetime ; when he goes we
shall have the feeling of starting life afresh, and
it is late for us to be doing this ; and it might
not have mattered at all if we had any friend or
relative who could take his place and manage
our business matters for us. John was trained
by dear father, and knows how to do things his
way. Why, we absolutely know nothing about
the details of affairs ! Come, Maria, cease
weeping and help me to think out what is best
to be done."
All this time the elder lady had continued her
weeping and wailing, but gradually regaining
self-control while listening to her sister s words.
It was strange that neither of these two
20 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
gentlewomen, so burdened and bewildered by
this unexpected blow, thought for a moment of
charging the originator of the trouble with lack
of consideration or selfishness. Perhaps it
would have been better for them if they
had. There is nothing so helpful in carrying
us through specially trying circumstances as
the inner consciousness that we are in some
way badly treated or wronged by one whose
injustice arouses righteous indignation. Who
does not know the difference between a spirit
broken by untoward circumstances and a spirit
so roused to resentment of unmerited evil that
it soars above all difficulties in its very deter-
mination to overcome them ?
The Misses Edgcombe, as the days passed on,
could think and speak of nothing else but the
impending evil of John's departure, and soon
their nights became almost as restless and dis-
turbed as their days, and the fact was visibly
telling upon even Miss Matilda's health.
May the i6th came and went and nothing
more had been said or done in reference to the
all-absorbing subject ; but the butler would
occasionally make some remark relating to
most trivial matters which conveyed the im-
pression that he no longer regarded himself
as a fixture at the Manor House.
A broken cord in a Venetian blind belonging
to the inner drawing-room had led one
A WAY OUT OF THE DIFFICULTY 21
day to the remark to Miss Matilda Edgcombe,
There is only one shop where I can get
cords to suit these blinds. I have tried several,
but Dalrymple's wear the best and last the
longest. I will make a note of this in the
general reference book, where I put down
several items which I think you will find
One morning — it was early in June, a sultry,
enervating day — when Miss Maria was suffering
from one of her bad headaches, her sister came
and sat down beside her, and, placing her
hand upon her arm, said in a tremulous voice,
Maria, I have thought of a way out of our
"About John, you mean?" said Miss Maria,
and she sighed deeply.
Yes, about John."
"And pray what is it?" enquired Maria a
little fretfully : so many plans had been thought
out which subsequently came to nothing, this
was doubtless only another such.
Why," said Matilda, and she spoke with an
awe in her tones suggestive of much disturbed
feeling, while her pallid cheeks flushed bright
crimson, either you or I must marry John."
AN IMPORTANT DECISION
A FREQUENT visitor at Edgcombe Manor was
Gertrude Hastings, the Rector's youngest
daughter. She had chanced in her babyhood
to have won the special notice of the Squire,
and forthwith indulgences were granted her
which had not been extended to either of
her five sisters. She had by reason of these
indulgences almost grown up upon the Manor
property, having played about the grounds,
under the eye of her nurse, when only a
toddling mite of two or three, riding, when
barely six, a shaggy pony which the Squire
provided for her use, and long before her
teens distinguishing herself by fearless exploits
which stamped her character with marks of
bravery, and gave her a reputation not likely to
Later, during a brief sojourn in Brussels to
give finish to the education which an up-to-date
governess had most carefully conducted at
home, Gertrude Hastings had been most sorely
missed by her Manor House friends. The
Squire was wont to say when she was a mere
AN IMPORTANT DECISION.
child, if anything kept her at home for a few
days, it seemed as if something were wanting
in the Manor House : things fell flat. A merry
voice, so free to prattle, was missing, and it
was something of this, but with more definite
pain about it, that the Misses Edgcombe had
felt when Gertrude was away on the Continent.
Her coming home for good" had been a
day long looked forward to with pleasure, and
the time which had elapsed since this event had
taken place had served to strengthen the ties
which bound these two lonely ladies to their
It was scarcely strange that Gertrude
Hastings should have been announced that day
as a caller at the very moment when Miss
Edgcombe had made the startling communica-
tion to her sister that one of them must marry
the butler John.
She came springing into the room with all
the buoyancy of step belonging to one of her
sunny nature, looking so picturesque and fresh
in her pretty summer garments and greeting the
sisters with no little display of affection. This
was the first time she had seen them since her
return home after a visit of several weeks to the
country house of one of her Brussels school-
Gertrude Hastings had no pretensions to
beauty. She was, to be distinctly accurate, a
24 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
plain girl. Her features were irregular and her
expansive brow — which was clearly out of all
proportion to the rest of her face — unduly in
evidence. In spite of this, all who knew her
best admitted her expression was such as to
make everything else forgotten but the fact that
she was simply charming, so vivacious, so fresh,
so like a healthy breeze.
She called the ladies of the Manor House
*'Auntie," "Aunt Maria" and "Aunt Matilda''
respectively, and treated them to all her con-
fidences. Indeed, it would seem more than
strange to have kept back anything affecting
her own life and happiness from the two ladies
who were so closely associated With her earliest
*'Yes," she said, blushing rosy red, *'of
course I am going to tell you every little bit
about my engagement ! I wanted badly to
write it, but it would have meant such an
unreasonably long letter, and I like best to tell
you, sitting as I do in this lovely chair, where
I can look at you and see your unbounded
pleasure when you hear about my hero ! "
''Is he fair or dark ?" queried Miss Maria,
interrupting. I want to picture him while you
speak ! "
" Of course he will be very tall," said Miss
Matilda. " I could not picture you with a
lover who was very short and small ! "
AN IMPORTANT DECISION
No, you are quite right, auntie. I shall
want to look up to my husband in every sense
and way," said Gertrude, warmly, ''and so I
shall do. Aubrey is a little over six feet, as
straight as a dart ; he is in the Volunteers, and
looks quite the soldier ; he is fair — not ^00 fair,
you know — with very curly hair, and* oh! such
blue, blue eyes. I cannot tell you the shape of
his mouth, for it is hidden by a full moustache ;
but I am sure it is good-tempered, for Aubrey
is so bright always, and he hasn't the tiniest
twist of sulkiness in his nature! How do I
know ? Why, just because I have seen him so
constantly and under all circumstances, and he's
just the same ! You know he has been staying
in the house with me : he was recovering from a
broken arm, and Lady Horrick would insist
upon him coming to the Hall to be nursed. Of
course he was able to be about just the same,
but being his right arm, he was unfit for work.
My old school friend, Ethel Horrick, seemed so
much interested in Aubrey Rice that I quite took
for granted they were very special friends until
— well, the happy little secret dawned upon me
one day, Aubrey was in love with me . . .
Oh, I cannot tell you how the whole world
changed to me when I knew this. I think I
must have cared for him from the first moment
we met, only I could not let myself think about
it until he spoke to me, and then everything
26 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
came with a rush. Lord Horrick wrote at once
to papa, and he came down immediately to
Moxdale Hall, and stayed with us for a few
days. Aubrey will not be able to come and see
us for some time, as he has had his holiday for
But what does your father say about it all.^^"
enquired Miss Matilda, and there was an audible
sigh. After all, it was very charming to see a
young girl's enthusiasm about the man she
loved ; but when people were more than twice
her age everything would be very different,
even supposing there could be a real lover in
Papa likes Aubrey," replied Gertrude. **In
a way I think he is quite satisfied about every-
thing, only he wishes he had better prospects.
You see he is only a clerk "
Only a clerk ! " exclaimed both ladies in
tones of great surprise. How could they ever
spare this dear girl to one of inferior or secondary
position ? She was in every way so superior
Gertrude coloured, as she said warmly,
Aubrey is well-born, and can boast even a
better ancestry than we can. He has, I know,
many years of plod before him, but we are
both young and can afford to wait for our
How old is he, my dear?" said Miss Maria,
AN IMPORTANT DECISION
growing much interested in the young man. It
was quite a relief to both sisters to think a long
engagement was probable : how could they
spare Gertrude out of their lives ?
He is just twenty-two," was the reply, and
I, you know, was nineteen last October, so
we could well make it a ten years' engage-
ment ! "
At this remark both the ladies laughed a
little ; then Miss Matilda reddened as she
thought of the butler John's desire to settle
''It is so strange to think of you. Birdie,
talking in this way," she said, rousing herself to
speak, and addressing Gertrude by the pet
name by which the sisters were very fond of
calling her. *' You are such a child to be
talking of a home of your own, however far
distant." Then, moved by some strange im-
pulse, Miss Matilda added, with a little nervous
laugh, *• What will you say if I tell you that
my sister and I are seriously contemplating
being married — one of us, you know — I am not
*' Aunt Matilda, how funny you are ! "
exclaimed Gertrude, jumping up from her seat
and kissing the flushed cheek of the speaker.
I could never think of you living anywhere
else than here. Oh, it is too dreadful to
imagine this dear old place without either of
28 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
** Then, my dear, we must arrange to remain
here and — and let this be our married home,
my sister's or mine — not both of us married,
you understand" — and Miss Matilda laughed.
She was growing quite frivolous all of a
Well, auntie, let me be your bridesmaid —
or Aunt Maria's, whichever it is to be," said
Gertrude, quite enjoying the joke. So long
as you do not leave Edgcombe Manor I will
raise no objection ! "
Another caller was announced, and lunch
quickly followed. Miss Matilda had grown
serious again, but her cheeks remained flushed,
and there was an unusual brilliancy in her dark-
That evening, when John came to the
drawing-room to ask " if the ladies required
anything more," Miss Matilda said, answering
for both, We would like a word with you.
Please come in and oblige us by taking a seat."
Whereupon John subsided on the extreme
edge of the nearest chair.
Miss Maria had a sudden fit of coughing,
which gave her sister time to collect her
thoughts before plunging into the subject
uppermost in her mind. When at length all
was again quiet, she said, with heightened
colour, and a nervous tremble in her voice.
It is about your proposed marriage, John."
AN IMPORTANT DECISION
" Yes, ma'am," said the one addressed, and
the colour mounted to his own brow.
"We have been much perplexed to find a
way out of the difficulty which faces us when-
ever we think of parting with — an old friend,
for it is only in that light we can regard you ! "
"You honour me in speaking of my poor
services so highly," said John, his face shining
with the pleasure the appreciative comment
conveyed to his mind.
"It is only as a friend we can think of you,"
continued Miss Matilda. " We forget you have
occupied the position of actual service only in
our home. You have grown to be, from your
long residence here, quite as one of the family.
Our good mother always felt grateful for your
devotion to herself ; our excellent father trusted
you as an equal, and we — we, his daughters,
have always reposed the >greatest confidence in
" You have always treated me with marked
courtesy and kindness," observed John, as Miss
" You have deserved far more than we have
shown," continued the speaker, every moment
growing more nervous, and, in proof of this,
we have a proposal to make you which will
appear a little startling at first, but when you
have well thought over it, as my sister and I
have done, it will, I doubt not, seem less
30 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
An awkward pause followed this remark.
Twice Miss Matilda made an effort to continue
and each time unsuccessfully.
At length John felt quite anxious to help the
lady out with her proposition, and, little thinking
what he was assisting her to say, he remarked
as he rose from his seat and stepped towards
the table against which Miss Matilda was
sitting, Any suggestion you may please to
make shall have my most earnest attention,
ma'am. Can I say more ? "
No, John," replied Miss Matilda, and she
sighed as if she were overburdened with the
responsibility of the proposal she was about to
make. Then something suddenly struck her ;
supposing in the few weeks which had passed
since John's original notice was given he had
found some one whom he would like to secure
for his wife, waiting for the further development
of his venture before making it known.
Let us quite understand how matters are
to-day," she said, nervously. Have you found
any one yet to listen to your proposals ? "
No one, ma'am," said John, quickly. I
have in vain sought divine guidance in the
matter. Of course I know it is a very impor-
tant step, and must not be undertaken lightly,
but I had quite expected before this to have
had a ' leading' given me. Instead of which I
feel like a man who has bought a picture frame
AN IMPORTANT DECISION
and is trying to find something to put into it,
but so far has searched hopelessly for anything
at all suitable."
" In that case," said Miss Matilda, looking
much agitated, although she held herself with
dignity, and her voice — always well-modulated
and sweet — lost none of its calmness, '* our pro-
posals are free to be made. But first let me
assure you they are only suggestions, and you
are quite at liberty to set them aside without
even giving them a moment's consideration if
they at all strike you as being — as being too
difficult — perhaps formidable would be the
better word — to be within reason."
" I scarcely think any plan you ladies might
suggest would strike me as being unreasonable,"
said honest John, quickly, adding, deferentially,
"even if I did not quite fall in with it. Please
let me hear what you have been so kindly
thinking about in my interests. I feel it very
good of you both, though it is more than in
keeping with your unfailing acts of kindness to
me in the past."
This little speech gave Miss Matilda time to
pluck up courage for the terrible announce-
ment." Her manner was less agitated as she
" We know you are willing to meet us, if such
a thing were possible, in the very trying matter
of your leaving the Manor, and the proposal we
32 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
are about to put before you, while you are per-
fectly at liberty to refuse it, I would remind you
your doing so would give us infinitely more pain
than any difficulty your accepting it could
The expression on John's face was one of
profound dismay. Whatever was coming, Miss
Matilda had contrived to put such meaning in
her voice and words that she had prepared the
way for a shock. He awaited the denouement
with the eagerness of a child about to be taken
into confidence over some appalling secret.
At length it came. Miss Matilda had shifted
her position slightly, pushing her chair a little
further from the table; now she rose, and placing
her right hand on a low bookcase (which
stood within reach) to steady herself, she said,
speaking slowly and distinctly, My sister and
I propose you should change your position in
this house. Instead of continuing a servant
here, we would have you become the master,
and this can only be done by your consenting
to marry one of us ! "
Every particle of colour forsook John's cheek
as he grasped the meaning of Miss Matilda's
speech. In vain he tried to find either voice
or words wherewith to answer. In the pause
which followed. Miss Matilda said, with what
was meant to be a compassionate smile, one
which John the butler could never have claimed
AN IMPORTANT DECISION
but which John the friend was fully entitled to,
" Be perfectly free to choose between us.
Your choice, whatever it may be, will satisfy
us both. We sisters will not be separated, and
our trusted friend will have the right to manage
the affairs of the Manor, which hitherto he has
done most satisfactorily out of goodwill to our
late dear father and to us ! "
" Your condescension amazes me ! " exclaimed
John, at last finding his voice. Surely," he
added, looking down so as not to encounter
Miss Matilda's glance, ''you honour me too
much in such a proposal. Still — still, maybe
things might be adjusted if you're not afraid of
what the world would say."
John, we have faced that question amongst
others" — it was Miss Maria who spoke this
time, feeling it was her bounden duty to sup-
port her sister actively as well as passively —
and do understand the only thing we are
afraid of is losing your presence from our
As Miss Maria paused John looked up, a
flush upon his pallid face. Advancing a step
or two towards the lady who had just spoken,
he said, in subdued tones, as if asking a favour
of the one addressed, at the same time stating
a fact which he considered settled once and for
all, Then please, ma'am, you'll not take it
amiss, I hope, if I make my choice of Miss
34 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
Matilda, and be^ you to allow me to take the
honourable position of being your brother-in-
" You have chosen wisely, John," said Miss
Maria, extending her hand to him. " I am
sure, by-and-bye, when we get accustomed to
changes, we shall be a very happy trio."
THE BRIDEGROOM ELECT
The news of the approaching marriage at the
Manor House caused, as may be imagined, a
great deal of gossip. There was scarcely a
home for miles round where Miss Matilda
Edgcombe's plans were not discussed ; perhaps
they were not so much her own plans as the
plans which others (as they passed the news
from lip to • mouth) gathered around the one
momentous fact of the forthcoming wedding.
In reality, Miss Matilda Edgcombe had few
plans. Even great events, be they earthquake
shocks or violent thunderstorms, do not give a
new nature to the ground upheaved or the tree
lashed with the fury of the downpour — the
ground is still the ground and the tree the tree.
Miss Matilda Edgcombe, in spite of her
romantic, almost sensational, engagement, was
Miss Matilda Edgcombe still — the same gentle-
natured, would - be - irresponsible lady whose
somewhat colourless life glided on from day to
day with rare, and for the most part most
exceptional outbursts of energy, which proved
the placid character had, somewhere below the
36 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
surface, hidden forces well to be reckoned
To the few who ventured to offer congratula-
tions on the world-phrased "happy event"
(which had been freely recorded in the columns
of the local papers) Miss Matilda said very
little, and that little was strangely to the point.
The marriage would mean but few changes,
for John had always filled the place of a trusted
friend since dear father's death left them so
dependent," and so forth.
To the relatives — none nearer than second
cousins, of whom the sisters had seen next to
nothing for some years past — when angry letters
came with cruel criticism and scarcely less cruel
remonstrance, the bride elect remained passively
" Many thanks for your kind letter," she
wrote to one who had been even more bitter
and outspoken than the rest. I am sure your
intentions are good, but as to your advice I am
afraid, as I did not ask for it, I must get you
to allow me to return it to you intact," and
she subscribed herself in that instance, Yours
ever gratefully and obliged," which forever
settled the matter of further interference from
At this time but few outward changes had
taken place. John insisted upon continuing his
regular work. It would be inconvenient, to
THE BRIDEGROOM ELECT
say nothing about its being inadvisable, to place
another man in his position while he remained
in the chrysalis stage of being late servant and
future master of Edgcombe Manor House ; and
as to going away for the time being, that was
equally out of the question, for what would
the ladies be able to do without him ? "
So John Butler — for such was his real name
— who, on and after the loth of the forthcoming
October, was to be known as John Butler-
Edgcombe (thus reversing the order of mar-
riages in general in the matter of exchange of
name) practically went on his way as aforetime.
It was his own special privilege to wait upon
"the ladies" at their meals — this he continued
to do. Towards evening it had ever been his
habit to come 'to the drawing-room the last thing
to ask for any further orders before retiring for
the night. He did so still; only now it was his
wont to linger. He had many things to talk
about, and from discussing the affairs of the
house John would branch off to politics — he was
in his way a good politician, well read, and with
a well-balanced mind and sound judgment.
Once the Misses Edgcombe had felt no
interest in matters to which John had from his
youth given keen attention, but to-day one of
them at least had become anxious to know more
of what was going on in the world, and John
did his best to enlighten her.
38 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
He had his own special way of looking at
things, a way which had doubtless grow^n out of
the conditions of his life. He was a farmer's
youngest son, claiming a whole ancestry of tillers
of the soil as his forebears. He came of a stock
which had lived nine months of every twelve in
the open air — men for the most part of clean,
healthy lives, who developed their muscles in
breaking up the land which they afterwards
cultivated, and, with but little book-lore, learnt
great and beautiful lessons from Nature.
Up with the dawn and early to rest— the
main anxiety of their very simple and common-
place existence the crops and the weather ; men
whose minds had never served an apprentice-
ship to bodies enfeebled by luxurious living, or
crippled and contracted by the crowded con-
ditions of city life — the physical, then as now, so
largely responsible for the mental and moral —
John Butler had come of a good old stock, and
he was justly proud of the fact.
The womenkind, too, of his ancestry belonged
to a race to whom fashion and frivolity were
unknown quantities. Healthy in mind as in
body, thrifty proclivities and habits of industry
were as much a part of their possessions as
were the homesteads and acres of farm land
the lawful heritage of their men-folk.
When quite young John Butler became page-
boy at Edgcombe Manor House. It had been
THE BRIDEGROOM ELECT
his dying mother's wish that he should be
spared the roughing it " which had been the
portion of his elder brothers. He was her
baby, and, good soul, inasmuch as her own
healthy constitution had felt the strain of
bearing fifteen sons and daughters, besides
attending to the dairy and carrying poultry and
€ggs to market and doing the hundred and one
things expected in those days of a farmer's wife,
she "had a mind" to let young John ''take
things a bit easy." He was a " better scholar"
than the rest of the lads (in those days, of
course, the girls were out of the reckon where
scholastic comparisons were made), and ''she
could see him quite well shape into the position
of house servant at the Squire's until he would
become an honour to the family, who would, of
course, be proud to have one of their kith and
kin brought up among gentlefolks. Who could
tell ? maybe John would grow into a sort of
gentleman himself one day."
Coming from just such a country home, the
son of just such parents as he called his own,
John Butler started with advantages which did
him good service in after life. He had a
capacity for improvement, without which no
one makes real mental or moral progress. He
had escaped the various ills which the flesh of
ordinary in-door servants is heir to — resenting
imaginary wrongs, while regarding invariably
40 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
those in authority as the secret enemies of
those who served. He had never been self-
assertive, and much less fawning" or ''curry-
ing favour." John Butler had been all his life
open-hearted, clear and clean-minded, fresh and
free in expressing opinions which, however
strongly held, never became fossilized into
His sympathy lay very largely with the
working classes ; but he had lived so many
years amongst "gentlefolks" (as he would
explain, if questioned upon his views) that he
regarded their ways and wants from quite a
different standpoint than he probably would
have done had he always lived amid his own
class as one of themselves.
Hence, in talking one evening to Miss
Matilda about the rights of a certain political
problem at that time engrossing much public
attention, he observed, You will see that the
rich do well to consider the needs of the poor,
for w^hatever benefits and makes better the
majority, benefits and blesses the world at
And Miss Matilda had rejoined simply,
" Yes, of course, it must be so," and had
visions of a family in the village whose
insanitary home had often beguiled a fever into
the district, making other homes pay the penalty
of their wrong-doings. She thought of the
THE BRIDEGROOM ELECT
desperate effort which had been made to get
the father and mother into a more thrifty life —
clothes, food, and unlimited supervision on the
Rector's part making a choice opportunity for
reform — but only to prove a hopeless failure.
Would this be so politically ? Would the rich
do their best to influence and uplift the poor,
and would it always be failure ? always be
Honest John Butler thought Miss Matilda
very good to let him talk to her as he did. He
was continually assuring himself that the beauty
of her soul was to be seen in her great
humility : for did she not listen to his various
observations as one awaiting information, and
not as one whose superior education treated his
opinions at a discount if not with scorn — as
might have been the case? But then Miss
Matilda Edgcombe would have to be some
one else, and he, John Butler, would not be
making plans for the future, to be put in force
when his position as master of the Manor House
gave him the right to rule and regulate the
affairs of the home and its surroundings.
Now, while John Butler admired Miss
Matilda Edgcombe's magnitude of mind in
conversing with him as an equal, he never for
a moment lost sight of the fact that she had
possessions which he lacked. She could claim
the heritage of an ancestry which had thought
42 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
with enlightened mind while living the life of
cultured ease ; at the same time he was justly-
proud of his own ancestors and the heritage of
honest, healthful toil to which he had himself
And so the summer passed. Quaintly and
quietly John accepted the responsibilities of his
new position. During the day, as we have
said, he served with faithful service the two
ladies for whose every want it had been his
custom for so many years to care. Towards
evening he found his way — each night a little
earlier — to the drawing-room to spend the time
at his disposal in conversation, varied by a game
of chess, the Squire having initiated him in the
art of chess-playing as far back as when he was
a page-boy. At ten o'clock, by the unalterable
law of habit, the house retired to rest, after
prayers had been read by Miss Maria, all the
servants being present. At this function John
would take the seat which had been his for so
many years — his chair in a line with the house-
hold staff, but placed by itself. The Squire
had suggested this plan to help his butler to
maintain the dignity due to his position. To-
day John liked best to let things remain as
they were." He would not anticipate his
At length the lOth of October dawned.
This was the wedding-day. An hour s talk had
THE BRIDEGROOM ELECT
served to plan out all details. The brougham
would take the two sisters and John to church,
then, the service over, would take John and
one sister to the railway station.
Miss Maria would be guest at the Rectory
during the honeymoon, for, although the
Rector most emphatically disapproved of the
marriage, showing that disapproval by insisting
that Gertrude discontinued for the present all
intercourse at the Manor House, he still wished
to stand well in the neighbourhood, and there-
fore did what he thought his parishioners might
deem a kindly thing under these very special
The bride and bridegroom were to spend a
brief week at Brighton. It seemed right to go
away ; other people followed this course, hence
it would be expected of them ; otherwise both
would have preferred to let matters go on as
usual at the Manor House, and have no break
to chronicle in their lives — no break, but a
Very nervous and agitated both sisters looked
when at length, a few moments before eleven
o'clock, the gong sounded — a usual signal to
say the carriage was at the door.
" You will not forget to take your beef tea
every morning at eleven, Maria," said Matilda
as she kissed the faded cheek of her elder sister;
and do let Gertrude sleep in the chair-bed in
44 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
your room if you feel it lonely at the Rectory.
You will find your cough mixture in your
dressing-bag ; I thought it would be safest
You will match that shade of silk for me at
Brighton," said Miss Maria, whose tear-dimmed
eyes showed all too plainly how much she was
feeling the parting from her sister. " They say
the clear air of Brighton is so excellent for
By this time they were on the broad stair-
case descending to the hall below. John stood
awaiting them, hat in hand. He opened the
brougham door for them, as he had done for
many a long year, so standing as to guard their
draperies from coming in contact with the wheel.
As he placed a light rug over the knees of the
two, Miss Matilda said, in a voice which shook
with suppressed feeling, You must come
inside to-day, John ! "
To which he made quiet answer — Not
ingoing' to church. I will take my place, please,
as usual on the box now. Afterwards I will
come inside if you are good enough to invite
me ! "
And so it happened that one of the many
strange things talked about that day was how
the bridegroom sat on the box-seat of the
brougham which took his bride to church.
HOW GERTRUDE CAME TO LEAVE HOME
Gertrude Hastings suffered a great loss when
forbidden by her parents to continue her visits
to the Manor House.
''You understand me, Gertrude," the Rector
had said with authority, " I mean to be obeyed
in this matter. I consider, in my position here,
it is a very 'legitimate stand to take against
what I believe to be Matilda Edgcombe's gross
blunder. What right has she to lower the
dignity of a family which can trace its ancestry
back to the time of William the Conqueror, by
contracting a marriage with one who has
occupied the position of a servant in the house-
hold ? The idea is preposterous. Indeed, I go
further and say it is simply insanity of a most
hopeless kind, and nothing on earth can justify
the step ! "
But why, if you think all this, papa," said
Gertrude, tearfully, '' why do you not go and
persuade Aunt Matilda to reconsider what she
is doing? If it is so very wicked, surely, as the
clergyman of the parish, it is for you to point
46 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
out the fact, and — and — lead poor auntie to
repentance ? "
Gertrude had spoken with spirit in spite of
her tears. It must be admitted it had come to
her as a great shock the announcement of Miss
Matilda Edgcombe's engagement, but such was
her faith in that good woman that she could
only allow she had every right to do what she
believed to be best, and if such were her
decision, then it left no room for argument or
dispute. Hence Gertrude had accepted the
fact, although regretfully, and as far as her
own mind was concerned, treasured no irritable
or unpleasant thought about the matter.
**Why do I not discuss the question with
Matilda Edgcombe?" said the Rector, hotly.
Simply for the same reason that I should
never dream of going to Colney Hatch to argue
a point with one of the lunatics there. The
discussion would be all on one side. Matilda
Edgcombe is, I tell you, insane in the matter of
her engagement, and as obstinate as a mule
when she has once made up her mind to a
thing. It would be sheer waste of time to
approach the subject further than I have done.
This makes it all the more necessary for me to
put my foot down where I have the right to do
so, and that is in regard to your visiting the
Manor House as hitherto. I object to it, Ger-
trude, in toto, and having said that, as you have
HOW GERTRUDE CAME TO LEAVE HOME 47
learnt your catechism and know the fifth com-
mandment, I do not expect to hear a word by
way of demur or contradiction from yourself! "
But, papa, they have been so good to me
always," said Gertrude, brushing her tears away
and speaking very earnestly. From a tiny tot
their loving thought and care have been just
like summer sunshine to me."
Bosh ! " interrupted the indignant Rector.
" What a foolish thing to say, Gertrude, inferring
that life at home was like winter dulness.
I tell you it is mere sentiment, and you must
eliminate it at once from your mind. Of course
the Misses Edgcombe were kind to you. Do
you think it was nothing to them to have a
bright, young creature like yourself flitting
backwards and forwards ? Well, they can do
without you now. They will have John the
butler to entertain them. Bah ! Think of ^/^a^
man in a position to call a daughter of mine
' my dear,' or in any way to play the host to
Still, Gertrude stood her ground. The tear-
ful mood- had passed, and she looked as one
suffering wrong, appealing not to sympathy but
to justice. Her face was flushed ; her eyes
There will, I know, be many to condemn
Aunt Matilda's action," she said, thoughtfully,
*'and most of these will hear nothing at all about
48 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
her reasons ; but, papa, they will not be real
friends of any value. I mean they have so
few real friends ; now, I am a real friend, and
that is why I feel it would be most mean and
despicable to stay away just because Aunt
Matilda chose to do something which other
people said she should not do. It seems to me
so unjust to her to leave her all to herself just
now ! "
"My dear Gertrude," exclaimed the Rector,
laughing, ''you are a dear little innocent, and
it is quite right for you to put on these pretty
airs and graces. I have not the slightest objec-
tion to your doing so, but, you understand, I
mxan to be obeyed. I do not forbid your
calling occasionally at the Manor House with
your mother, but I do forbid your remaining on
the friendly footing which has hitherto existed.
Why, bless my soul, you have pretty well lived
at the Manor House all your life. I think it is
time for you to devote yourself to home and its
duties. There, you must leave me now, for I
have my Sunday morning sermon to write."
And Gertrude withdrew from her father's
study, a little hurt, a good deal angry, and with
a mind which had aged perceptibly during
that painful interview.
From that day Gertrude Hastings ceased to
be the thoughtless, laughter-loving girl. Life
had suddenly grown very serious to her. No
HOW GERTRUDE CAME TO LEAVE HOME 49
one heard her complain, but all at home were
conscious that she was in some way changed.
Her mother thought her engagement with
Aubrey Rice was giving her a sense of responsi-
bility which checked her usually high spirits.
Her father said it was time for her to settle
down ; she had always been more or less of a
butterfly. He liked girls of her age to become
staid — and so forth. Strangely enough, no one
associated her low spirits with the severe strain
which the Rector had imposed upon her in
bidding her absent herself entirely from the
Thus the time had passed ushering in the
wedding day. The Rector had most magnani-
mously consented, as we have seen, to marry
the two whose coming together he so entirely
disapproved of Miss Maria's visit had put
the Rectory in a pleasant little bustle. No one
could quite forget that they were entertaining
Miss Edgcombe of Edgcombe Manor House-
Gertrude excepted. She, poor girl, regained
for the time being her lost youth in devoting
herself to Aunt Maria," and accompanying
her to and fro to prepare the bride s home for
her reception. All too soon this delightful
break in her — at that time — weird existence
came to an end. The Manor House had
received its new master, and in the very act
became forbidden ground to Gertrude Hastings.
50 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
It is difficult to explain by what rule the
Rector found peace to his own conscience in
sacrificing his daughters happiness. Mrs.
Hastings did venture more than once to plead
for less stringent measures, but with no avail.
Meanwhile Gertrude busied herself about
the house in a most exemplary manner. At
the time of which we write the cultured classes
thought their womenkind at their best when
most domesticated. Such as could afford to
leave the household matters in the hands of
servants would devote every available activity
and healthy energy of mind and body to
artistic needlework, varying the day's employ-
ment by arranging flowers and dusting some
well-preserved old china.
For years Gertrude Hastings^ sisters had
lived this kind of life, and she herself had only
been spared it by her constant visits to the
Manor House. When these ceased she, not
unnaturally, found great difficulty in settling
down to the uneventful every-day-alike life at
I wish I just happened to be Nellie Moore,
the draper's daughter, and not Miss Gertrude
Hastings of the Rectory," exclaimed Gertrude
one morning early in January, as she came
home after going down to the parish with her
father. How lovely it must be to be quite
free — absolutely independent ; the social
HOW GERTRUDE CAME TO LEAVE HOME 5 I
fetters which bind us so firmly to an aimless
life at home actually broken — snapped in two ! "
How would it help you to be Nellie
Moore ? " enquired her eldest sister, not lifting-
her eyes from the work which she held in her
" Oh," said Gertrude, " I have had the most
delightful account of Nellie Moore's new depar-
ture in life. She grew tired of millinery, and
has obtained a situation at the Hill Farm as
nursery governess. She has quite a short
day there, and earns twelve pounds a year for
pocket money. The children are positively
charming, Mrs Moore says, and Nellie is per-
fectly happy ! "
And you v/ould like to go out as a ' nursery
governess'?" enquired Jane Hastings, and this
time she eyed Gertrude carefully.
'*Of course I would," exclaimed the one
addressed. ''It would mean settled occupation
for one thing, and for another I should be
earning some golden guineas to expend in any
way I thought best."
''You forget you are a lady, born and bred,"
exclaimed Jane, putting a very dainty little hand
to her mouth to hide a gape. " Ladies do not
earn golden guineas for pocket money ; that
privilege is some compensation to our less for-
tunate sisters, who are born in a position which
is socially far beneath our own."
52 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
I don't see what need they have of compen-
sation," exclaimed Gertrude with warmth.
They are at least born in a station in life
where work is admitted. I used to envy Nellie
as I saw her twirling those bits of finery into
pretty knots and bows, and wonder at the good
fate which always brought them to the right
spot on the bonnet or hat she happened to be
trimming at the time. I envy her much more
now she is engaged in teaching those little farm
children ! "
" Gertrude, your engagement with Aubrey
Rice is spoiling you," said Jane. A year ago
you would have found it impossible to talk as
you are doing now. As the promised wife of a
city clerk — "
I am thinking it is awfully hard upon a man
for a girl to sit down idly and let her future
husband do all the uphill work of planting the
home he wants her to share with him," said
Gertrude, brightly. " I would fain take my fair
division in the effort. Why not? The mere
thought of doing this gives some dignity to life,
which is almost unendurable in its enforced
Silly child, you talk like a book by a very
secondary writer," said Jane Hastings in a tone
of severe criticism. " How can you compare
Nellie Moore's position to your own .'^ You are
in a cultured home, mistress of your own time
HOW GERTRUDE CAME TO LEAVE HOME 53
and actions, with unlimited opportunities of
enjoyment one way or another. My dear
girl, do not let father or mother hear you
speak in the way you have just done. I am
sure it would annoy them extremely."
Jane thought exactly what she spoke at the
time, and yet, in a few weeks from that day,
she was herself pleading earnestly with the
Rector to gratify Gertrude's intense desire, and
allow her to leave home for a while.
I am sure she will only fret at home,
father," this wise sister said, very seriously.
**You have forbidden her the Manor House
on the old terms, and she finds it so difficult
to employ the time on her hands now. It
surely could not hurt her in the end to see a
little of life in the' capacity she is so anxious to
fill as governess or companion. Remember,
you have already consented to her engagement
with a city clerk. Can there be any harm in
allowing her the practical training which will
fit her for a poor man's wife ? "
You forget, Jane," said the Rector, quietly,
" Aubrey Rice is no mere ordinary clerk. He
has great expectations from some of his relatives.
Although himself a churchman, he comes from
a good old Quaker ancestry, and many of his
people are to-day amongst the most cultured in
the land — I have Lord Horrick's word for this —
while at the same time associated with that.
54 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
prosperity in their various callings which means
wealth. I expect Gertrude will be the wife of
a rich man. The day will come — and, I doubt
not, speedily — when Aubrey will be able to give
up his present employment and become a country
gentleman. He has the making of the country
squire in him — he can ride and drive and shoot
as well as any man I know of his age. The
marvel to me is that his father was satisfied to
send him straight from Marlboro' into an insur-
ance office without letting him go to the 'Varsity,
but then he was a poor man himself — a country
lawyer with limited success and crude notions.
He died quite a young man, from all I can
hear, and Aubrey very early became the main
support of his widowed mother."
I expect he will be as staid as old times,"
said Jane, appreciatively, *'when he and Gertrude
settle down in a home of their own, but mean-
while, father, do you not think it would be wise
to let Birdie take up teaching for a while ? "
Jane was the only one at the Rectory who
ever used the Manor House pet name for
Gertrude. Possibly she did this purposely at
that moment, for the Rector winced, reminded
all at once of the great trial which had befallen
Gertrude since Miss Matilda's marriage had
made it inadvisable for her to visit her old
friends as aforetime.
He was there and then a little softened, and
HOW GERTRUDE CAME TO LEAVE HOME 55
when an hour or two later the family doctor
looked in because happening to be passing,"
and said, carelessly enough, but evidently with
intention, I think, Rector, Miss Gertrude
needs a change. Why don't you let her follow
her pet hobby for a time ? Get her into a nice
family as companion t-o an only daughter, or
governess to young children, and it will do her
all the good in the world ! She is moping and
out of spirits altogether, and of course it will
tell upon her general health. Mind you, I
don't say you were wrong in keeping her from
the Manor House, but you have taken away
her occupation, and, in justice to herself, you
should not stand out if she has a mind to follow
her bent in, another direction."
The Rector made answer by writing down
hurriedly upon a half sheet of paper the follow-
ing advertisement, which he read out to Dr.
Maynard in a tone which was more aggressive
than genial : —
"Wanted, by a Clergyman's daughter, a post in a
family of culture either as Companion or Governess
to young children. A pleasant home and occupation
desired. Salary of no importance. Apply by letter
only to G. H., Times Office."
**Just the thing!" exclaimed Dr. Maynard,
gleefully. He was fond of Gertrude, and felt
extremely for her under the Rector's severe
rule. Now we will see how many cultured
56 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
homes open their doors to your daughter!
Allow me to drop the letter in the post; I shall
be passing and it will save time."
Umph ! " said the Rector, smiling ; not a
bad idea,' Maynard, for, should her mother raise
any objection, I could put the responsibility on
And that is how it happened that Gertrude
Hastings a few days later found herself in
the very exciting position of having to choose
between the various homes offered to her in
answer to the Times advertisement.
She felt much drawn to one — companion to
a little girl of ten, blind from her birth and very
delicate. No teaching would be required, as a
teacher from the Blind School near came daily
for a few hours ; but when upon enquiry it was
found that the father of the little girl was a
tradesman, the Rector absolutely opposed his
daughter's acceptance of the engagement.
"No, no," he said, gravely, '*we must draw
the line somewhere. I can allow no associations
with Trade. It would at once become a family
disgrace. It is bad enough as it is that a
daughter of mine should be * in employment.' "
Hence Gertrude had to give up the blind
girl and make another selection.
AUBREY rice's SECRET
A SWEET-FACED woman, faded and worn to
preternatural thinness, stood on a doorstep of a
pretty suburban villa, leisurely searching in her
pocket for a latch-key. Her bearing was that
of a perfect lady ; her movements were full of
that indescribable grace which denotes certain
culture and courtesy, although everything was
a little suggestive of feebleness and age.
Suddenly some one joined her with a buoyantly
uttered Well, mother ! "
And th^n the old lady's face literally beamed
with happiness as, placing her ungloved hand
on his arm, she said with animation, My son
Aubrey, what joy to see thee ! I have been to
meet thy brother Harold, and the train was
late, but he did not come. He will be here
to-morrow, dost thou not think ? "
Surely, mother," was the reply, spoken
cheerfully, if not hopefully. Let us get some
tea now. You look as if you wanted yours,
and I am sure I do mine."
By this time Aubrey Rice had opened the
door with his own latch-key, and he and his
58 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
mother had passed into the little sitting-room
which lay to the right of the small hall. The
table was set for tea, a bright fire burnt in the
grate, and the room was lighted by a lamp
which hung from the ceiling.
The gentle old lady who had greeted her son
so warmly threw off her shawl as if it were
quite a relief to be free from it, and untied her
bonnet strings, seating herself in an arm-chair
by the fire. Up to this chair Aubrey moved a
small table, and very quietly placed upon it a
cup of tea, bread and butter, and a little pre-
served fruit. An elderly servant had brought
in the teapot through a doorway leading from
" Now, sweet mother, eat away," Aubrey
Rice said cheerfully, as he spread out the
tempting meal upon the little table. " I want
to see how soon you can finish, that we may
have a nice cosy time together before I get to
" I do not feel just inclined for food," said the
old lady, with a sigh. Thou seest, dear, I
have had such a disappointment in not finding
thy brother Harold in the train. But he will
" Surely, surely," replied her son, as he
moved off to the table where his own more
substantial tea was awaiting him. After a little
while, having well eaten, and noticing that his
AUBREY rice's SECRET
mother s food was still untasted, he opened the
door leading into the kitchen. Sarah ! " he
called to the elderly servant, who was quick
to come, **just look after your mistress for a
few minutes, and coax her to take some tea. I
suppose no letters have come for me since the
morning ? " this in an undertone.
**Oh yes, sir, I forgot," exclaimed Sarah,
diving into the depths of an old-fashioned
pocket, " this one came at noon."
" Thank you for taking care of it," said
Aubrey Rice as he took possession of the letter
in question and hastened from the room. He
was quick to ascend the pretty carpeted stair-
case, and to find his way to a small and simply
furnished room which he called his "den." A
lounge chair, a bookcase well filled with books
in substantial binding, a small square table with
a leg at each corner — hence firm in its footing—
(upon which were placed a writing-case and
inkstand), an old-fashioned high cupboard,
which by touching a spring let down into a bed
— this fairly describes the furniture in detail.
The room communicated with another of
much larger dimensions — indeed, one was in-
tended to be the dressing-room to the other.
The apartment into which Aubrey s had access
was his mother's sleeping room. For years it
had been his habit to leave the intervening door
partly open at night that he might be quick to
6d the romance of an emergency
hear if his mother were restless, and prompt to
urge her to return to her pillow for a few hours
longer if she rose too early, eager to be up and
Throwing himself into his comfortable lounge
chair — after lighting a small gas fire which
stood in the grate, and a miniature lamp hang-
ing over the mantelpiece — Aubrey Rice broke
the seal of the letter which he had held firmly
all the time in his left hand.
He was soon deep in its contents. Midway
he paused, and striking his hand upon his knee
exclaimed, By Jove, but isn't this plucky of
Gertrude ! Oh, if I could only explain it to
mother, how it would please her ! " He read
the sentence which had called forth this remark
over again —
I know I have something in me better than
a life of complete ease calls forth, with perplex-
ing wool-work designs the nearest approach to
toil. I want to be spending my life more
usefully than working patterns on canvas. I
could do that if I chanced to be an invalid, but
I am strong, and long for real work. What
can hurt any one in good, honest labour ? I am
quite sure it is the enforced idleness (like mine
has become since I was cut off from the Manor
House) which destroys and spoils our existence
just as the caterpillars eat holes in the rose
leaves until the roses are not worth gathering.
AUBREY rice's SECRET
I told papa the other day I wished he would sit
in our pew and let me go into the pulpit and
preach a little sermon to parents who, through
mistaken kindness, were afraid to let their
daughters do any work — I do not mean play-
work, but real work. I am telling you all this
to prepare you for what has actually taken
place. I am going to be nursery governess
to two little girls belonging to a clergyman's
family. I am to have fifteen pounds a year as
my salary — a month's holiday in the summer
and three weeks at Christmas — "
It was almost an hour afterwards when
Aubrey joined his mother in the little sitting-
room. Sarah had cleared away the tea-things
and removed her mistress's outdoor garments.
Seen without her bonnet, Mrs. Rice looked
fully the Quaker lady that she was. Her neat,
frilled cap, close-fitting to the face ; her silken
gown, ample in its folds, but nowhere long
enough to touch the ground ; the white mull
muslin kerchief over her shoulders, all were
tokens of her being a Friend. Aubrey's arrival
was the signal for Sarah to withdraw. The old
lady sat in her arm-chair gazing into the fire ; a
dreamy look was upon her face. She noticed
her son's entrance in the room, but until he had
actually taken his seat beside her, lifting one of
her hands — such little hands too — and holding
62 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
it in both of his, she did not attempt to speak.
Then she talked as if continuing a conversation
which had been interrupted — He wrote so
cheerfully ; he was having such a happy time
with young Lord Horrick, but of course he
would spend Christmas with us ; of course he
would, dear boy. How could we spend ours
without him ? And then, you see, he told me
by which train he came, and I went so glad to
meet him, but alas ! he was not there. I
thought I had made a mistake, so I met the
next train and the next ; why, Aubrey, I am
always meeting trains and he has not come yet!
He will ; he must come soon. To-morrow, by
the early train, perhaps ? Oh, Aubrey, thou
wilt wake betimes and call me, my son ? I
must be there before the train is signalled."
■ ' I will be very sure to call you, mother
dear," said Aubrey, fondly stroking the hand
he clasped so firmly, ''but," he added, "what
would you like to do now before Sarah helps
you to bed, dear ? May I read to you, or shall
I sing one of your favourite songs "
"No, no, lad," said the old lady, softly, "I'm
over-tired just now, and thou hast work to do.
I'll hie me to bed lest I should over-sleep me in
the morn, and Harold's train come in and his
mother not be there."
" But, dearest, I have something I want to
tell you," said Aubrey, speaking slowly. " I have
AUBREY rice's SECRET
waited long to tell you some news you should
have been the very first to hear, only your mind
was filled with busy thoughts about Harold.
But come, you could listen to-night, surely.
Will you try, just for my sake ? "
No, no," said the old lady, rising with
dignity, I cannot, must not give my thoughts
to other things lest I am late in meeting
Harold's train. When he is safely home I will
sit, and sit with him beside me, and thou shalt
tell me all thy news. Good night, my son.
God spare both me and thee to meet in the
morning light ! "
Aubrey had risen when his mother did, and
now he stooped over her with tender fondness,
and kissed again and again her faded cheek.
She made no response, her thoughts being
fully engrossed. Then Sarah was summoned,
and the old lady led gently out of the room to
Soon, when he heard the servant return to
the kitchen, Aubrey turned the lamp out in the
sitting-room, locked up the front door for the
night, and took himself off to his den." He
had a letter to write, one he had long wished
to get off his mind, but again and again it had
been delayed. Still, the moment had come
when to remain silent would mean almost to
deceive. It was more than hopeless to get his
mother's attention. How many, many times
64 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
the scene of to-night had been repeated.
Indeed, how little variety there was in his daily
home-coming, and what took place immediately
How often it happened that he found his
mother on the doorstep trying to let herself in
with her latch-key ! How like one day was to
another in the experience about the evening
meal ! His efforts to get her to eat were
usually baffled. It was the faithful servant
Sarah who was generally called in to coax her
mistress to take food," and invariably it was
when trying to bring some other subject before
her that the old lady pleaded weariness, and
moved off to bed.
And yet, Aubrey Rice had been engaged
over six months to Gertrude Hastings, and he
had never yet had the courage to tell her that
the mother of whom he had always spoken so
tenderly was a harmless lunatic.
To-night it must be done. Gertrude had
shown herself to be a girl of great pluck. The
story of her own plans revealed her in an
altogether new character. She was not only
the fascinating, light-hearted girl whose love
it had been his good fortune to win, but she
was a woman of courageous spirit, preferring
work to idleness, determined to live as far as
possible up to her own conviction of what a
useful life should be.
AUBREY rice's SECRET
By what right did he withhold the pathetic
facts which were so closely interwoven with his
own home-life ?
Hence it happened that the next day but one
Gertrude Hastings received a letter which filled
her heart with sympathy of a kind never before
awakened, and caused her to think more highly
than ever of her hero-lover. She had known
from the first of her acquaintance with him,
from the fi-iends at whose house they met, of
Aubrey Rice's unselfish and self-sacrificing life
at home ; but no word had been whispered in
reference to the mother to whom he was so
devoted, beyond the fact of her being an
" Forgive me, Gertrude," the letter ran, if
I have kept back from you what it was more
than your right 'to know, thinking of the fact
from the world's point of view. I have been
silent, only awaiting a fitting time to speak, yet
each week feeling less inclined to burden my
darling with an unhappy secret which cannot
but throw my own life in shadow.
*' Let me tell you a story which goes back five
years — -at least, it was five years on the 24th of
December last. My poor father had been dead
about six months, and my elder brother Harold
and I had determined to devote our lives to our
dear mother by giving all our leisure hours —
we were both insurance office clerks — to study,
66 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
which would help us eventually, either by
teaching or in literary work, to add to the
income which was her chief support (chief but
not absolute, for my poor father had bought
her an annuity of /^loo a year). Harold had
formed a great friendship when at Marlborough
with Guy Manville, Lord Horrick's second
son, who is, as you know, abroad, and wishing
to consult him in reference to some London
University examinations which he was anxious
to work up for, he begged a couple of days off
work before Christmas on the understanding at
the office that he would forego his claim to a
holiday after Christmas. He went down to
Moxdale Hall on the Thursday, and was to
return home the following Monday, Christmas
Eve, so that our dear mother should have us
both on Christmas Day.
He wrote to us on Friday night a letter
brimful of pleasure. Lord Horrick had been
so good to him in many ways. Guy was all
sympathy with him in his plans and ambitions.
Our poor mother, who had grieved much at my
dear father's death, was quite excited over this,
and very eager to see Harold back, to hear
fuller details of all that had been said and done.
When at length Christmas Eve arrived
nothing would do but she must go to the
station to meet Harold's train. (I was late at
the office that night, doing duty partly for a
AUBREY rice's SECRET
clerk who worked with me, and who had in the
dinner hour met with an accident which had
necessitated his being taken to a hospital.)
" My mother went down to the station alone
and awaited Harold's train, which was over an
hour late. When it at length came in it
brought the cruel news that a gentleman, * by
name Harold Rice,' was lying dead in a first-
class carriage. Sudden illness (a broken blood-
vessel on the brain), and death within a few
moments. A doctor, summoned hastily from
another part of the train by Harold's frightened
fellow-travellers, at one of the stoppages, pro-
nounced life to be extinct ; and as it was within
ten miles of our station, it had been deemed
best, on the spur of the moment, to leave him
where he was, the doctor agreeing to be locked
in the carriage with him for the rest of the
Imagine what it must have been to poor
mother, looking in vain on the arrival of the
train for her expected son, to hear whispers of
an accident, and — for she was recognised by
some officials on the platform — to be told,
kindly enough doubtless, but all too plainly,
that her son was dead. The shock turned her
brain. That she only partly understood the
full meaning of the cruel news they sought to
break is evident, for from that day (now over
five years ago) she has devoted her life to
68 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
meeting all the trains which come on to the
platform where she awaited Harold that night.
" The first up train of importance is due at
10.5 a.m., and she is always there to meet it.
She passes from one carriage to another, look-
ing earnestly for her expected boy. When at
length the train moves on she will go to the
ladies' waiting room and await the next. She
speaks quite openly to any one who may address
her. * She has come to meet her son,' and will
tell them of Harold's cleverness, the comfort he
has always been to her, her hopes concerning
him in the future, and so on, breaking away
when another train comes in, with an apology
* but she must be on the platform to receive
him or he would be disappointed.' At i o'clock
she regularly goes home to dinner, unless the
12.50 chances to be late, when she sees it in,
returning for the 2.20 and remaining until the
5.30 has come in, after which she returns slowly
home with the air of one much disappointed.
** She is perfectly harmless. I have taken the
best medical advice possible, and leave her to
live her life out in this manner as the happier
alternative to placing her * under care.' To
keep her at home means to give her full liberty.
A faithful servant — once our nurse, who has
been with us for over twenty years — looks after
her interest in the house. Dear mother is most
tractable and quiet ; only in one way is she
AUBREY rice's SECRET
difificult, and that is that she will open every
letter which comes to the house, believing it to
be from Harold to herself. Sarah has to be very-
watchful in this respect. Ycur letters usually
find a home in her pocket until my return to
"And now, my dear Gertrude, having at
length told you my sad secret, will you some
day be afraid to come and see my dear mother?
In vain I have endeavoured to talk to her
about you ; she has no thought free for anything
outside her own life. Once I put your photo-
graph in her work-basket. I watched her lift it
up and put aside without so much as a glance.
I called her attention to it, and she talked of
Harold and gave no heed.
Only do our friends at Moxdale Hall think
of my poor mother as *an invalid.' At first I
kept back the train trouble, expecting daily it
would pass away. The doctors held out hopes
that such would be the case; but, alas, no
change has come in all these years, and I have
grown to accept the inevitable. And now that
I have shared my sad secret with you, I feel a.
thousand times happier. Of course I had no
thought of keeping you in ignorance in the
matter ; but I have hoped against hope my dear
mother might recover her brain power and
write to you herself, inviting you to come and
stay with us. ' I fear * staying ' is now quite out
70 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
of the question, but if you would consent to
come over for a few hours we might arrange it;
only, remember, if you arrive during the train-
meeting time, we shall have to seek her at the
railway station, where you will see for yourself
the picture I have described."
THE NEW SQUIRE "AT HOME "
The Rector had taken infinite trouble to
explain to his friends and acquaintances that
his daughter Gertrude had not left home, to
use a vulgar phrase, to earn her own living,"
but to gratify a childish whim, which he fully
expected would not be very long-lived.
Every one understood without the telling how
greatly opposed he had been to the Manor
House marriage." The Rev. Archibald Hast-
ings was known to be a proud man. Every
year of his residence as Rector of Edgcombe
Parish Church had emphasised the fact. His
everyday * dealings with his parishioners had
given force to it, while his occasional speeches
on political platforms in towns hard by had led
to further certainty in the matter.
He was much given to quoting his titled
relatives, nominally as supporters of his own
views, but in reality to identify his affinity with
the aristocracy. My brother-in-law, the Earl
of Nottage, who, poor fellow, met with an early
death from a fall from his horse, was in the
habit of saying," &c. ; or, My cousin, Lord
72 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
Chittick, has often observed to me " so and so.
How could he be expected to take kindly to the
gruesome marriage at the Manor House? The
marvel was that he consented to perform the
ceremony, but as the living was in the gift of
the ladies of the Manor, he doubtless felt it to
be a duty to carry out the task imposed upon
Would he visit at the Manor House as in the
days of the late Squire ? This was the ques-
tion which agitated the minds of the gossips.
Everything had gone quietly enough since the
return of the bride and bridegroom from their
honeymoon. But few changes had been made
on the staff of servants. The new butler, who
had been duly appointed, was one who had
served his apprenticeship at the Manor House
under the late butler as page-boy. He was
a quiet, inoffensive young man, who never
gossiped in the village. The housekeeper,
from whom might have been expected a little
special news from time to time, passed on by
her dressmaker, the postmaster's daughter, had
'Meft of her own accord," as she was proud to
say, not relishing the fact of her fellow-servant
becoming her master, ''to say nothing of the
delicate attentions he had been in the habit of
paying to herself for quite ten years or more."
Hence the village folk felt greatly cut off from
the Manor House, all the other servants belong-
THE NEW SQUIRE **AT HOME "
ing to distant homes, the said late housekeeper's
method of creating her own monopoly of gossip
by bringing her maids from far-off parishes.
It was with real excitement that the post
office — the village centre of news — heard from
no less an authority than good Dr. Maynard
that there was going to be a gentlemen's dinner
party at the Manor House, and the Rector was
to be amongst the guests, and as chance
happened that Mr. Aubrey Rice, Miss Gertrude s
fiance, was spending a day or two at the
Rectory, he was also to be there.
This was absolutely the first sign of hospi-
tality which the Manor House had given since
the new master took up his position there.
How it came to pass the village gossips would
never know, for the little plan had come to life,
and been discussed and settled in the sacred
precincts of Mrs. Butler - Edgcombe's own
boudoir. It had arisen on this wise.
" Do you not think, John, it might be well for
us very occasionally to entertain guests as we
did in dear father's time ? I expect the village
and neighbourhood feel neglected somewhat."
Matilda Edgcombe had said this very cautiously,
as if feeling her way with her husband of now
some five months' standing.
"If you think it right, my dear," said the new
Squire, putting down the newspaper which he
had been reading to give full attention to his
74 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
wife, I have no objection. After the Rector's
unkindness in forbidding Miss Gertrude to keep
up her pleasant friendship here, you would not
perhaps think it necessary to include him in the
invitation ? "
The question was put quietly, but the
speaker's face had flushed in proof of the
feeling which lay beneath the words.
Oh, I think, John, we should do well to
ignore the Rector's cruel discourtesy. It will
be the best censure of his unfriendly action to
take no notice of it," said Matilda, promptly.
I only wish," she added, we could get our
dear Gertrude here for the evening, but that,
of course, is out of the question, as we must
start with a gentlemen's dinner party."
Then there had been a somewhat lengthy
but very amicable discussion as to which guests
to invite. Miss Maria Edgcombe giving her
opinion in mild, hushed tones, but as one whose
vote counted in any decision which might be
Finally all was settled, the date chosen, and
the housekeeper duly informed what was about
to take place. On the Sunday before the day
fixed for the dinner party, Mrs. Butler- Edgcombe
had been very quick to notice a very dis-
tinguished-looking stranger in the Rectory pew.
It only needed Gertrude's blushing face to
associate him with herself, and later, when
THE NEW SQUIRE "AT HOME " 75
seeing him full face, the ''blue, blue eyes"
(described by Birdie in her first account of her
fiance) settled the doubt as to his identity.
*' How delightful to get this unexpected peep
of you, dear," Mrs. Butler- Edgcombe had said
as, the service over, she lingered in the church-
yard for Gertrude, who quickly appeared,
Aubrey Rice walking by her side.
''Papa telegraphed for me to come," said
Gertrude, turning rosy red, partly from self-
consciousness, but largely because of the great
pleasure of getting speech in this way of Aunt
Matilda. " Let me introduce you to Aubrey.
Is it not fortunate for us he had business here
to-morrow in connection with his office, and he
wrote to ask if he might spend Sunday with my
people ? Papa telegraphed off for me at once,
and we travelled by the same train."
" I think the good fortune must not stop
there," said Mr. Butler- Edgcombe, who had
been introduced to Mr. Rice when that gentle-
man was presented to his wife. " May we not
share in the pleasure of this unexpected visit ?
We are entertaining guests at the Manor to-
morrow night. Will not Mr. Rice be one of
them ? The Rector is coming. I only wish we
were privileged to include ladies, but this time
it is just a bachelors' dinner party."
Gertrude blushed, as she said warmly, " I
should have been delighted to be invited, but I
76 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
must go back to my young charges in the
morning. As to Mr. Rice, what say you,
I shall be pleased to accept Mr. Butler-
Edgcombes hospitality," said Aubrey, quietly,
" if I can by any possibility manage it. Per-
haps," he added, turning to the new Squire
with a frank smile which lighted up his face
most wonderfully, *'you will allow me to leave
it open. I must get up to town early to-
morrow afternoon, but I might get back again.
What is your dinner hour ? "
''7.30 for 8," replied the new Squire
promptly, well pleased that Mr. Aubrey Rice
had thought the invitation worthy of some
special effort. And then the Rector joined
them, and as they all chatted pleasantly together
on the way to the Manor House carriage,
which stood waiting its master and mistress,
none but those in the secret would have guessed
how bitter the feeling was in the clergyman's
heart against the man of whom he thought as a
It was on the following day that Dr. May-
nard mentioned, in the post office, that there
was to be a dinner party at the Manor House
that night, and the news created so much
excitement in the village that it became to them
afterwards in memory as a red-letter day.
Mr. Butler- Edgcombe played the part of host
THE NEW SQUIRE "AT HOME "
that evening with becoming dignity. The most
critical could not have complained of the ease
with which he received his guests. His manner
was entirely free from what is to-day known as
*'side" on the one hand or ''nervous humility"
on the other. He was particularly natural and
self-possessed, and never wavered for a moment
in doing the right thing, as measured by the
hard-and-fast rule of society, at the right time.
Only once during the evening did anything
arise of a specially trying nature, and for this
the Rector was entirely responsible.
It was during a busy hum of voices eager in
conversation that the Rector chanced to ask his
hostess " if she still gave much attention to the
cultivation of poultry.-^"
" My husband has become the active partner
in my poultry business," Mrs. Butler- Edg-
combe said pleasantly, her cheeks flushing a
little as she spoke. Indeed," she added, ''he
always had far more to do with it than I."
At that moment she turned to give some
direction to a servant who stood by her right
shoulder, when the Rector, forgetful of all good
manners, looked towards his left-hand neigh-
bour and remarked, " I knew he was a good
poultry carver, but I did not think he took
interest in rearing poulets."
The remark would doubtless have been
absolutely lost in the general hubbub of talking
78 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
had it not chanced at that very moment that
there was a sudden lull in the conversation,
one of those strange pauses for which no one
can account but which so often are attended with
Every word of the Rector's had been heard
even at the farthest end of the table, and the
foolish utterance was even more foolishly greeted
by a general titter. Only one man present
dared to show his indignation by an audible
" Hush ! " called out in the heat of the moment
as the natural expression of his own feeling, and
that one was Aubrey Rice.
Of course it would have been better had the
host passed over the matter in contemptuous
silence ; but John Butler- Edgcombe had not
come into any sudden heritage of courtly man-
ners, bequeathed by an unbroken ancestry of
noble lineage, when he married his wife Matilda,
and this was a crisis when his natural endow-
ment of courteous feeling did not go far enough
to help him to rise to the occasion.
He bit his lip, looking for the moment un-
questionably angry ; then he spoke out in the
awkward silence which Aubrey's Hush ! " had
enforced. He said, with a little laugh, Doubt-
less Mr. Hastings will also remember that I
have in the past been considered something
of an expert in decanting wine ? I see my
butler has made some mistake in bottling this
THE NEW SQUIRE ''AT HOME "
port. If you will kindly excuse me a moment,
I will get another bottle up from my wine cellar
and decant it myself."
There was certainly more dignity than anger
in the tone of the new Squire as he said this,
but being himself in the position of host, it might
have been wiser to have left the speech un-
spoken. For the most part the guests looked
uncomfortable. Aubrey Rice, chancing to sit
near the master of the house, seeing his inten- ~
tion of leaving the room, rose from his seat and
opened the door for him. And then the con-
versation flowed apace, each one intent to bury
the unpleasant moment beneath the flowery
nothings of more courteous speech.
When the evening at length came to an
end — all had gone well with that one exception —
the new Squire sat in his wife's boudoir and
chatted Over some interesting details. He had
heard of a mare belonging to a neighbouring
squire which was to be sold privately. If his
informant had spoken correctly as to her size,
she was just what they were looking out for to
run in the shafts with Nancy. He would lose
no time in going over the next morning.
Then Dr. Maynard had asked him to help
the free library scheme in connection with
South Dinsley : what would Matilda say if he
sent a cheque to the promoters for ^500 ?
Anything in the way of education was good.
So THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
And so on. At last, when it was time to retire
for the night, Mr. Butler - Edgcombe said
somewhat humbly, I am sorry I took any
notice of the Rector's ill-mannered speech,
Matilda ; you must please forgive me. One
thing I shall never forget in connection with
it, and that was young Rice's attitude ! " And
Matilda, amid many blushes and with a very
tearful smile, assured John that he had nothing
to regret about anything he had said or done
at this their first dinner-party. As to the
Rector, she thought he had behaved abominably,
and she almost washed that this might be their
last opportunity of laying themselves open to
the ill-mannered laughter of their guests.
Still," added Matilda, I am jealous for
you, John. I do not like it to be thought that
you cannot meet Society's claims in the way of
showing hospitality. But for this we would let
to-night be our first and last attempt. You are
more than capable of making a good host.
I v/as more than proud of you to-night ! "
I thank you, my dear Matilda, for your
praise. It is very sweet to me," said the new
Squire, his eyes quite shining with feeling.
''If you are satisfied, I ought not to be annoyed
at the display of any ill-natured manners on the
part of our visitors. Still, perhaps it would
scarcely be well for any one concerned to
tolerate more than a certain amount of this
THE NEW SQUIRE **AT HOME " 8 1
sort of thing. If I allow twenty per cent, as
due to the somewhat singular circumstances
attached to the fact of my being master here,
and another ten to account for the low tone of
our supposed high-class gentry, I think I shall
have gone as far as I can ; more than this
would pauperise my own self - respect and
Yes, I agree with you," said Matilda; **but,
after all, the Rector was most to blame to-night.
I must confess he has all along pained me by
his attitude concerning our marriage. I always
think our clergy should be above all the absurd
distinctions of Society's making. If their mis-
sion is to help us to think about another world,
what right have they, by their own actions, to
bind our thoughts down to this ? I never have
cared very much for Mr. Hastings, but, as
'Gertrude's father, one liked to be friendly with
him. Do you know, I am not so sorry now
that Gertrude has gone away from the narrow-
ing influences of her home-life, and I am more
glad than I can say that Aubrey Rice seems a
sensible young man ! "
What a long speech for Matilda Butler-
Edgcombe to make. A year ago how im-
possible it would have been for her to express
herself thus freely. Was it possible that affec-
tion of a kind for her good-hearted husband
Ihad brought to her nature a genial air, which
THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
helped her to set aside the habitual ^'reserve
of her former life and talk openly upon subjects
which moved her ?
It was not difficult to discover that ; the
marriage which the Rector spoke of as a
gross blunder," which, admittedly, was so
singular in some respects, so quaint in others,
was not likely to sink to the level of the
The new Squire had grave thoughts about
the responsibilities of wealth. The hand that
did not gather is lax in scattering riches " is a
well-known proverb. But Mr. Butler- Edgcombe
was no spendthrift. He believed in working
upon some plan, that was all. He had no
difficulty in getting his wife and Miss Maria
Edgcombe to see eye to eye with him in the
matter. They had practically placed their
ample fortunes in his hand. They asked him
to do what was best to be done with the wealth
which, more often than not in the past, with
their simple tastes and habits, had been almost
a burden to them.
Here was an opportunity for speculation — an
opening few men could face and not be tempted
to launch out into the indulgence of some
hobby. But honest John Butler- Edgcombe
was moved by none of these things. He had
only one desire, and that was to do more with
the money at his disposal than had already
THE NEW SQUIRE **AT HOME "
been done with it. It was not long before the
new master at the Manor House had earned for
himself the benediction which is the portion of
the man who considers the poor — such con-
sideration " involving careful enquiry, planning
out what is best for those who need the uplift-
ing hand of the one capable of giving such
assistance. This is the charity distribution
which has power to develop self-help and main-
John had his own views in reference to the
vexed question of servants. He believed, from
his long contact with this most difficult class^
that the problem how to satisfy them would
quickly be solved if, starting with a stated salary
for the special post held, each individual had
power to supplement earnings by some legiti-
mate effort. Thus the laundry-maid, in receipt
of a stated wage, would be paid in addition a
commission upon the number of garments she
was able to turn out satisfactorily, stimulating
her arm to deal with many rather than with few,
and absolutely removing the power to grumble
because of overwork. Each position in a house-
hold would command its own special treatment
on similar lines. The cook would, at the end
of each week or month, receive so much per
head for all who had been specially prepared
for at a meal beyond the immediate family.
The housemaid would gather her gains on the
84 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
same principle, and the various departments of
service would each hold some special oppor-
tunity of adding to the usual wage peculiar to
It will be seen at a glance that labour under
these circumstances and conditions would in-
evitably mean profit to the worker so often
accustomed to grumble and complain when
extra work fell to his or her share. At the
same time it would introduce into the monotony
of the life of service certain speculative elements
which would create a very healthy and legiti-
How interested our dear father would have
been, John," Matilda would say when her
husband explained some pet theory which he
bid her aid him to reduce to practice ; " but he
would have been so timid about altering long-
" They have altered themselves," observed
John, drily. " Just as the sea at Dunwich, where
we stayed last summer on the Suffolk coast, was
once over five miles away from the church, and
now is only some few hundred yards, so time
brings about changes in ways no human brain
ever contemplates or plans. Our mistake is not
to recognise these changes. In the old days
when service and slavery were one and the
same, there was no room for expectation, no
need for stimulus. But slavery ceased and paid
THE NEW SQUIRE *'AT HOME " 85
service came in ; and the sooner we recognise
that there is an injustice in expecting eighteen-
pennyworth of service for a shilling's pay the
better. Service to-day means pay. Pay must
be varied according to the worth (to him who is
paymaster) of the worker, so planning set wages
that a margin is left for what I will call my
speculative theory. This is what we are coming
to if we would keep a hold upon our employes
and make domestic service worth going in for."
*'John," said Matilda one day after her
husband had been stating the above views,
you owe it to Society at large to tell the world
what you are . teaching me so emphatically to
believe in. Why don't you write to the
Times ? "
" Because, my dear Matilda " said John, with
a grim smile,' they would rule an ex-butler's
statements out of order."
" Not when he writes as the present squire
of Edgcombe Manor, "^ said Matilda, with
By which it will be seen that Matilda Butler-
Edgcombe was actually growing quite proud
of her husband.
Two years had passed since Miss Matilda
Edgcombe had escaped the grave emergency
which threatened her and her sister, by
marrying her late father's butler. To-day she
sat by that sister's deathbed.
She was looking younger by some years than
upon the day of her marriage, but Miss Maria
had aged considerably. She had been ill for
over eight months, and suffering and the
enforced confinement in one room had left
their marks upon her. Her eyes were dulled
and had receded in their sockets, her cheeks
were faded, and the general appearance of her
drooping frame was of a body prematurely old.
You will be better when the spring time
comes, Maria," said her sister Matilda in what
were intended to be cheerful tones. You
must not talk of leaving us yet. We could not
possibly spare you." A lump came into the
speaker's throat as she said this, and her
attempts at cheerfulness were certainly many
-degrees below the standard of success.
I do not think I want to get better, please,"
said Maria, plaintively. I am so weary — so
weary ; and, besides, I take up so much of your
time nursing me ; and then I am so sorry for
John, and he is always so kind."
The invalid's cough came on badly at this
time, and effectually prevented her sister reply-
ing to her remark at the moment. When at
length it quietened down a little, Maria con-
tinued, and her tones were dreamy and low-
pitched. I am glad you married John, Matilda.
I could never have rested in my grave if, when
I went there, you had been left all alone in this
large old-fashioned house."
Then, after a pause, she continued in a way
which would pretty well have explained to a
casual observer the boundary line of her
theology — I am wondering a little how I shall
explain it all to 'dear father and mother w^hen I
see them in that other world."
**Ah, Maria, you need not trouble," said
Matilda, quite unmoved, excepting for a little
flush which dyed her cheek at the moment.
They will have heavenly eyes to look at earthly
things with there. They will think more of
honesty and uprightness of character than of
worldly position, and they will honour John as
we do for his devoted and unfailing care of us.
I am sure mother will be the very first to
admire John with very genuine admiration ! "
Maria looked relieved.
88 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
And you think father will not — will not
say we have wronged our great ancestry in
letting him be master here ? " she continued,
fixing her gaze on the ceiling, and speaking as
one is apt to speak when conversing with
thoughts long familiar to the mind rather than
with an individual only that moment on the
scene. It has seemed so difficult sometimes
to make it all fit in, Matilda. I know we did
what we thought best at the time — "
The flush upon Matilda's cheek grew more
brilliant, but her tones were just as calm as
when she had last spoken as she replied,
" Set your mind at rest, Maria. Our father
and mother were themselves the best proof of
the genuine nobility of our ancestry. In spite
of wealth and position, were they not simple-
minded enough to love downright goodness
wherever they met with it ? Surely there is an
aristocracy of character which in heaven is
accepted at its own value. Dear mother and
father had this ; John has it also ; hence in
heaven they will all be equal."
When you talk like that, I see it quite
clearly," said Miss Maria, withdrawing her eyes
from the ceiling and fixing them on her sister's
"And we have been very happy," said
Matilda softly, stroking her sister's hand.
John has always been so kind, so considerate,
and far more thoughtful than the husbands are
of whom we read in books. I am sure some of
our most aristocratic connections might be
taught by him. With John the responsibilities
of married life are so serious, while so many of
our friends think lightly of them, or ignore them
- ' John is what our dear mother used to call
*one of Natures gentlemen,'" said Maria,
smiling and colouring a little. " No," she
added, musingly, it would be quite impossible
for him to be seen at a disadvantage in heaven !
He is so honourable."
Matilda's cheek crimsoned. Her sister's
praise of her husband was very sweet to her.
"He always thought highly of you, Maria,"
she ventured to. say after a moment's pause, and
the sick woman replied tremblingly, God bless
him for his goodness to us both ! " and as she
spoke a smile of great peacefulness came into
her face, making her look for the moment, in
spite of her hardened features and pinched and
faded cheeks, almost beautiful. After this she
eased herself on her pillow, losing her breath in
the effort, finally sinking back into much the
same position as before.
Then there fell over the two sisters a dreamy
silence, such as often comes into a sick room,
turning minutes into hours, and reducing hours
into moments. Neither spoke again. At this
90 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
minute they understood each other perfectly.
What need to put in words the thoughts which
floated through their minds ? Again and again
Maria smiled to herself, as if her thoughts were
pleasant, and Matilda smiled for company ;
and the gentle ticking of the clock seemed as
the sympathy of a friend. By and bye Maria
slept, but Matilda still sat on.
And thus her husband found her later, when,
softly entering the room, he approached with
almost reverent step, bearing in his hands
flowers and grapes for the invalid.
Matilda started out of her reverie. At this
moment the rays of the winter's setting sun
came softly through the casement window,
lighting up the corner of the room in which
the invalid's bed was placed, bathing her pillow
in the rich rose-tinted glow — caught from the
coloured glass through which the light had
found its way — playing upon the sick woman's
grey-touched hair, her brow with its deep fur-
rows, her closed eyelids, her faded cheeks, and
the throat, no longer fair, which sickness had
wasted. And here, beneath the chin, just
catching the edge of the frills which encircled
the neck, the light made itself a border-line,
framing, as it were, the form it thus enriched
Mr. Butler- Edgcombe stood as one suddenly
arrested. How like a picture ! " he uttered
softly, leaning over his wife's chair, as he gazed
at his sister-in-law.
r>--This was but for a moment ; the next and he
had stepped aside, approaching the pillow in a
way which cast a shadow over the spotless linen
and darkened the splendour which had so trans-
fixed him. Matilda took the flowers and fruit
from his hands as he bent over the invalid.
Lower and lower he bowed his head, listening
for the regular breathing of the sleeper, but he
listened in vain. It was only the matter of a
few seconds before he gently led his wife from
the room. His authoritative Come away,
dear," could not be resisted, even had Matilda
contemplated doing so. His extreme tender-
ness as he whispered, My poor Matilda, but
this is sudden grief for you to bear," explained
more than anything else his action. They were
in the presence of death ... so gently
and without attracting special attention had rest
come to the weary.
The news of the trouble at the Manor House,
which, although for some time foreshadowed,
had actually come most unexpectedly, softened
the Rector's heart somewhat towards the lady
who had so grievously transgressed in his sight
the laws of Society by her undignified marriage.
He knew how deeply attached the sisters were,
and how tenaciously the weaker mind had
twined itself round the stronger one. The
92 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
untwining would be felt to the one remaining-
To her, her sister s death was a calamity.
Of course Matilda will feel more than ever
now the involved position she created by her
disastrous marriage. Could anything be more
intolerable than being left as she is to-day — a
woman of culture tied for life to a man who had
been the family servant, with not a creature to
speak to in her own position, completely cut off
from her aristocratic relations ? No wonder her
cousin, Lord Walters, was so bitter in his
remarks to me at the Conservative Club that
day. ' Matilda has done for herself for ever with
her parents' relatives. There is not one of us
would ever consent to cross the threshold of
Edgcombe Manor House again while ^Aa^ man
rem.ains the master ! ' And Lord Walters is
right. It is only thus that the English aris-
tocracy can maintain its magnificent prestige !
The Rector continued to wage wrathful
utterances so long as he was left undisturbed.
He had an indulgent listener in his wife, but
when he had accused Matilda Edgcombe, in
his unrestrained anger, of actually planning to
bring about the undesirable marriage by putting
it into the butler's head that he ought to
marry " ; was it not wise for a man of his
years to settle down ? " etc., Mrs. Hastings was
''Stop, Archibald!" she cried, rising from
her seat and stamping her foot, I think you
have said quite enough. You have got to the
end of facts, and before you attempt fiction, it
would be better to consuh poor Matilda, and
hear what she has to say in the matter ! "
I am surprised at you, my dear," exclaimed
the wrathful Rector. To hear you speak one
would think you agreed to the union." And
upon this he proceeded to lecture his wife in a
way which hopelessly involved Matilda Edg-
combe, the British aristocracy, and plebeian
butlers. The exercise, however, of his vocal
powers in giving this harangue went far to
exhaust the personal animus which inspired the
address, and at the close the Rector took a
much more charitable view of the matter.
Matilda Edgcombe had done a very foolish
thing, but that was no reason why, at such a
moment as the present, she should be deserted.
I must go and see her," he said, pausing in
the walk he had been taking from end to end of
a large old-fashioned hearth-rug, '*and, 'pon my
word, but if she expresses half a wish to have
Gertrude with her for a few days, I think we
should do well to waive objection. A time of
death is a time of setting aside differences."
I wonder whether Lord Walters will think
that and come to the funeral ? " said Mrs.
Hastings sleepily, with a half-suppressed yawn.
(She had sat up much beyond her usual hour
94 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
to meet the Rector on his return home from
London with the news from the Manor House>
and body and brain were tired.)
Not he ! " was the quick reply. Blue
blood is thick, and moves slowly through the
veins. I know I pride myself upon my own,
but my professional work brings other influences
to bear. I mean too what I say about Gertrude.
A week at the Manor House could not hurt the
girl, and Matilda might be glad of her. At any
rate I will suggest it when I call in the
But the Rector had no opportunity given him
of making any proposals at Edgcombe Manor
House. The message brought down when he
sent his card up was to the effect that Mrs.
Butler- Edgcombe was too unwell to be seen,
and the Squire was engaged with the family
GERTRUDE HASTINGS* PROMISE TO HER PUPIL
" Miss Hastings, I wish you were a little girl
like me. Don't you ? " The question was put
in the piping treble of a child's voice, and the
wistful eyes which looked up into Gertrude's
face were full of that strange earnestness so
often associated with delicate children whose
minds have grown apace, while their bodies
have been slow to develop.
I think I might, Daisy, sometimes, you
know, when I , felt very tired and wanted to go
to sleep in the middle of the day, as you are
going just now when I have tucked you up in
your little bed. Are you ready, darling ? "
Gertrude Hastings stroked the fair hair of her
young charge, and smiled upon her upturned
face as if at least the two were excellent friends.
''No, don't, please, send me away from you
yet. Miss Hastings," said Daisy, beseechingly.
*' I want to tell you something — something quite
private — now Blanche is practising her music
in the drawing-room. It is quite a secret ! "
Well, what is it, little woman ? " inquired
Gertrude, sitting down and taking Daisy on her
96 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
knee. " I will give you five whole minutes —
three hundred seconds — so hasten on."
Thus encouraged, Daisy spoke — " I heard
mamma say yesterday, if you were not so big
and such a real lady, she wanted to keep you
with us for ever and ever! But because, you
see, people forget to pay papa for sitting in his
pews, and then some go away and never sit in
them at all, and then the money mamma wants
to keep house with isn't there to be spent, so
you see papa and mamma are going to ask you
if you would not like to take care of some other
little girls whose papas are very rich, and I
thought if only you happened to be a little girl
just as small as me you could have half of my
wee bed, and mamma need never mind about
things for — for — Oh, Miss Hastings, if you
go away my heart will break ; I love you so
much I cannot, cannot let you go ! " and Daisy,
who had by this time worked herself up into a
frenzy of despair, broke out into a passionate
fit of weeping.
So this was the meaning of little Daisys
unusual depression during lesson-time that
morning. This accounted for the wistful
glances which had been shot across the break-
fast-table by this wee little woman usually so
sunny-hearted and bright.
I am afraid papa and mamma would grieve
if they thought you had been listening to what
Gertrude's promise to her pupil 97
must have been quite a private conversation,"
said Gertrude, gravely, ''and I am sure they
would not want you to repeat it to me, Daisy ;
so now, dear, we will talk no more about it,
but you must go for your noonday sleep, and
try to forget what you overheard."
Daisy by this time was sobbing softly — the
passion of tears had spent itself — a sudden out-
break and soon over, so natural to childhood.
She looked wistfully at her governess — ''Was
I very naughty to listen? I was playing in
papa s study, and could not help hearing, for all
my dollies had gone to sleep, and there was a
great hush in my corner ! "
"Well, well," said Gertrude,, putting the
little one off her lap and rising as if anxious to
end the conversation, " I do not think any one
would reprove you, if that was the case, for
having heard papa and mamma talking, but my
little Daisy will not say anything more about
it, and it will soon be forgotten ! "
"And you will not go and leave us because
the people forget to pay for sitting in papa's
pews in church ? " said Daisy, the tears again
starting to her eyes.
"No, little darling," replied Gertrude, giving
the child an impulsive hug. " Do not worry !
Mamma will not, I hope, send me away, and I
could not go until you and Blanche were a little
more grown up than you are now."
98 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
" Oh, I wish I could stay little for always /
exclaimed Daisy, skipping about in her glee,
her baby mind quite relieved. She was ready
to be sent off to bed now, and soon was sleeping
the peaceful, happy sleep of childhood.
Meanwhile Gertrude Hastings sat in the
school-room buried in deep thought. Was this,
then, the meaning of Mrs. Brownlows many
sighs when discussing very necessary expendi-
ture in connection with home life ? Were they
really poor — forced to bear the burden of
limited means, in addition to the heavy care of
working a poor parish where the necessary
church funds were so hard to raise ?
Little Daisy s revelation prepared Gertrude
for the interview with Mrs. Brownlow which
came later in the day, when her young charges
had gone to bed.
She was sitting with the Vicar s wife in the
morning-room, which, when alone, they in-
variably used for meals, and for writing or
working in during intervening hours. It was
still early in the evening. At eight they would
be going to the church (which stood alongside of
the Vicarage), for the usual week-night service.
" I must apologise to you, Miss Hastings,"
Mrs. Brownlow said, putting down her work
while speaking, for the delay in paying your
salary, but Mr. Brownlow has found it difficult
to spare me money this month. He is, alas,.
Gertrude's promise to her pupil 99
responsible for so much in the parish, if funds
do not come in in an ordinary way, and just
now things are terribly behind ! "
Please do not think about it for a moment,"
exclaimed Gertrude, blushing a little consciously
as she remembered Daisy's conversation of that
morning. I am in no hurry ; indeed, I often
wish I had no salary to receive. It is such a
real pleasure to be here, and I am so full of
sympathy with you in your busy, struggling
life. I hope it is not presumptuous to say so.
I never knew before what an anxiety a city
parish must be ! "
Ah, you have seen something of us in the
eighteen months you have been with us, my
dear," said Mrs Brownlow, with a sigh. " I
feel I may treat you as a friend, and speak
Gertrude looked up with a frank smile. She
had a very warm admiration for little Mrs.
Brownlow, but in some way they had never
become very intimate. Possibly this was the
reason why they got on so well together ; for
surely too much demonstration on the one
hand, creating, as it must do, expectation on the
other, is apt to increase the temperature of
sociability to hothouse heat, rendering minds
abnormally sensitive, and so preparing the way
for trouble which, under healthier conditions,
could never originate.
lOO THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
*'You see, my dear Miss Hastings," con-
tinued Mrs. Brownlow, ''when we came to this
parish we followed a vicar who, having private
means of his own, was quite independent. As
a matter of fact, he gave every penny of his
stipend back to the parish, usually anony-
mously, but his subscriptions helped to support
much of the special work, which is so important
in these poor districts. Having no money of
our own, we cannot afford to devote our stipend
to parish interests, but unless we constantly
find money for parochial purposes, a great many
things would come to a dead stop, and this is
the pity of it all. While we are paying twenty-
five pounds a year out of our little income to
help towards the curate's salary — and oh ! what
should we do without his help, we should have
been in our graves long ago — and another
twenty to church expenses, because our poor
collections will not reach the point needed, and,
while to keep things going, we are obliged to
spare a pound here and a few shillings there, we
are actually running into debt ourselves. Yes;
think of it, we, who should be public examples
in our parish, of whom no one should have it in
his power to tax us with debt, we are incurring
it daily — not for luxuries, God knows — but for
food and clothes of the simplest and most
necessary kind. Oh, Miss Hastings, I could
weep over my own woes when I think of
Gertrude's promise to her pupil ioi
our fetters through no fault of our own ! Were
it not for the patience and forbearance of our
tradespeople how could we live ? I often smile
through my tears in my corner of our pew on
Sunday when I see our grocer come into church.
* Ah ! ' I say to myself, ' it is to you we, at the
Vicarage, owe our breakfast this morning, and
tea and breakfast every morning for the last six
months! May Heaven reward you! I must
confess I am less comfortable in my thoughts
about some to whom I owe money, because
they have not hesitated to ask for it ; poor
things, I expect they wanted it or they would
not have troubled us ; but, anyway, we are in
debt, and I hate, hate, hate it ! And it can't
be right !
It fetters us, this being in debt, I say, and
more than that, it burdens our spirit and unfits
us for the very work we are here to do. I
maintain, to do real spiritual work a clergyman
needs to be quite free from any financial strain.
How could this be in a parish like ours ? Well,
it sounds, I fear, a little hard to say it, but poor
as our people are, I believe solemnly that if they
had been trained to first admit and then live up
to their responsibilities, the money would be
forthcoming for parish work, and the endow-
ment would — if not broken into — amply meet
our personal wants. Of course, I should be
looked upon as a most absurd financier if I
I02 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
suggested that the claim the parish church has
upon the people should mean a sort of tribute
paid weekly to the treasurer of the common
fund by each family in the district — yes, even
the very poorest might give a penny a head,
saved from luxuries — beer, tobacco, or sweets
- — but I am sure this would go a long way to
solve the problem * how to reach the masses ' ;
for where the poor's pennies go, there will
they follow to see what becomes of them."
Mrs. Brownlow had spoken with great excite-
ment. Her fair face, usually so peaceful in its
setting, had flushed, and her eyes grown
brilliantly large as she proceeded.
I am so sorry for you and the Vicar," stam-
mered Gertrude. It is good of you to explain
things so plainly."
My dear Miss Hastings, it is due to you,"
said Mrs. Brownlow, quickly. You are a
member of our family to-day, and are entitled
to know, in measure at least, some of our
piteous struggles. But I am especially anxious
to tell you to-day because — because I am sorely
afraid we must deny ourselves the luxury of a
governess for our little girls and send them to
school. I blush to say it, but I can no longer
find the fifteen pounds which we pay you, all
this time wishing we could afford three times
that sum. Even then it would be but poor
return for all the comfort you have been to us.''
Gertrude's promise to her pupil 103
Please, dear Mrs. Brownlow, do not let my
money ^trouble you," said Gertrude, warmly.
I will gladly take half — less than half — say
a year, and stay and help you. I have
learnt so many things since I came to you, and
making my own dresses as I do now, thanks to
you, is very economical ! Besides, my mother
would never let me want for clothes." Then,
seeing Mrs. Brownlow's lip tremble as she was
trying to steady her voice to answer, Gertrude
added, Please let me look upon the matter as
settled. I shall indeed feel it a privilege to
help, however little, in easing your burden of
poverty ; and I know your little girls are not
strong enough to attend an ordinary school ! "
You are too good," said Mrs. Brownlow, at
length finding her voice, her tears flowing as
she spoke, *'but I am afraid we must not
selfishly accept' your generous offer. Besides,
Mr. Rice might object. You forget you have
let me into your secret of trying to save a little
for his sake."
Gertrude crimsoned. For the moment Aubrey
Rice had been entirely out of her thoughts.
She was, however, quick to answer Mrs.
Brownlow — I am quite sure Mr. Rice will
think as I do, and be very proud to know I am
really able to be of any special service to you.
When he comes next Sunday, as he hopes to do,
thanks to your kind invitation, you shall hear
I04 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
from his own lips how pleased he is with my
suggestion. I know he has always felt grateful
to you and the Vicar for your kind con-
This conversation had taken place the very
day of Miss Maria Edgcombe's death. The
following morning Gertrude received a few
lines from the Squire, speaking of his wife's sad
loss and of her overwhelming grief
Within an hour Gertrude Hastings was on
her way to Edgcombe Manor, to be what help
and comfort she could to Aunt Matilda. The
implicit obedience enforced by her father at the
time of Miss Edgcombe's marriage made no
appeal to her to-day. She was of age, and the
fetters which had bound the life of her girlhood
had been broken when she left home. She
had always felt her father's action on that
occasion to have been unjust. To-day she
resented it as more than an injustice. She had
been cruelly forced into a position of ingratitude,
and those to whom she owed so much in the
past had been distinctly wronged by her
conduct. It was too late to seek Aunt Maria's
forgiveness, but could she not find opportunity
in the future to restore to Aunt Matilda fourfold
the love and sympathy and companionship
of which her conscience told her she had
robbed her ?
AN ANGRY RECTOR
" Preposterous ! " exclaimed the Rev. Archi-
bald Hastings (a few days after the events
narrated in the last chapter) as he brought his
hand down upon the table with a force which
caused his wife to exclaim, My dear / " but
did not perceptibly move even a hair of the
very curly head of the young man to whom the
remark was addressed.
I tell you," reiterated the Rector, getting
almost black in the face with anger of a kind so
painful to witness, I tell you the thing is pre-
posterous ! You are mad, Aubrey Rice ; clean
gone off your head, or how could you calmly
contemplate foregoing an honourable position
in life for one that can only disgrace your
family ? What, I want to know, was your
education for if not to fit you for a life where
mind held its own over matter, a life where
every gentleman must find his place in the brain
power of the age ?
''I do not say you have actually reached a
very definite or exalted position in your present
calling, but, at all events, you were in a fair
I06 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
way to do so, and now in cold blood you come
to me — and, mark you, when everything is
settled too — and tell me you are going to throw
up your old work and become a draper's assist-
ant ! Bah, Rice ! I should have thought a man
of your calibre would have had more self-
respect than to have done anything so absolutely
contemptible ! I have no patience with you ! "
Excuse me, Mr. Hastings," said Aubrey
Rice, with great difficulty keeping his temper,
but having been brought up to regard all
legitimate trade as honourable, I fail to see to
what particular point in my action your sug-
gestion applies. You forget my Quaker ancestry
will have given my mind quite another standard
whereby to measure the legitimate calling of an
educated and cultured man, presumably a
gentleman, from the one which you are at the
present moment upholding ! "
I don't understand what you are driving
at," said the Rector, knocking the ashes out
of his meerschaum pipe, and refilling it with an
activity which had a good deal of nervous
irritability in it.
Simply this," said Aubrey Rice, with
heightened colour, but otherwise unmoved ; I
have been taught to believe that every rig'A^
calling has room for a good man, and that no
man is at his best unless well educated and
cultured. Further, that no trade can lower the
AN ANGRY RECTOR
man who enters it with the full determination to
make it a means of doing his duty to God and
man. Bear with me a moment, and let me
prove my point. Are not well-educated (and
for the matter of that, well-born) men with
plenty of natural refinement, sensitive, truth-
loving, and withal with high ideals, better able
to keep up the standard of righteous dealing,
man to man, in the world of commerce than the
less-educated, less-cultured, less-sensitive indi-
vidual who enters trade with but one object,
and that only to make money? Am I to be
despised because I enter a position where some
day, if not to-day, I can lay down laws which
will protect my business from what is known as
* shoddyism ' on the one hand and clap-trap
bargains on the other ? Am I to be upbraided
as a fool because I realise (presumably led to do
so because of my Quaker bringing-up) that,
seeing it is jiecessary to have drapers' shops to
meet the civilised requirements of the everyday
life of a nation like ours, it is best to have a
man of education and refined feeling at the head
who will see his employes have all the considera-
tion due to them in reference to health and
happiness ? Surely it ennobles the business, be
it what it may, if the employer allows his people
a definite margin in the use of their time for
self-culture, and pays a wage which does more
than provide for the bare necessities of life ? "
I08 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
" Your argument is grotesquely uncon-
vincing," snorted the Rector, changing his
position in his arm-chair by uncrossing and
recrossing his legs.
Aubrey was roused. His voice was no
longer calm and unruffled, but angry, indig-
nant, as if patience could go no further. It
was the turning of the worm. He rose to his
feet as he said, with spirit, " I am not telling
you that I am about to enter a trade which
makes its profits out of the losses of its sup-
porters ! Perhaps had I come to you with the
avowal that I was about to be taken into part-
nership in some brewery, you would have spared
me your opposition ? "
" Possibly," replied the Rector, with a deri-
sive laugh, "but even you will admit. Rice,
there is a distinct difference between the trade
and a trade."
Certainly," said Aubrey ; I admit it abso-
lutely by holding that the well-born man of
culture will find but little scope for ennobling
and purifying the trade, whereas in what you
are pleased to term a trade, his opportunities
will be exhaustless."
''Well, well," said the Rector, rising and
patting the air as if fanning himself in an
oppressive atmosphere, ''you and I would
never agree upon these matters if we discussed
them until the poet s silvery moon became blue,
AN ANGRY RECTOR
SO we had better end this painful interview. I
can only repeat what I have already said, I
think you a fool to give up good prospects for
bad, and, if I have any say in the matter of
Gertrude's engagement, it will cease from now.
No daughter of mine will get my consent for
her marriage with a tradesman ; and if she goes
contrary to my wishes, she must do so with her
eyes open ; this home will close its doors to her
for ever — "
Hush, my dear!" exclaimed Mrs. Hastings,
suddenly roused to take part in the conversa-
tion. Gertrude has a mind of her own, and
you must leave her to judge ; if she sees things
as Aubrey does — "
But the Rector never allowed even his wife
to be insubordinate. He was master of his
own home, and he enforced obedience with
an iron will. If any one differed from him they
must learn to do so in silence. Mrs. Hastings
had learned her lesson very well in her (nearly)
thirty years of married life ; and it was on
the very rarest occasions — this being one —
that she ventured a remark which at all ran
counter to her husband's opinions. While she
was now attempting to put in a word for
Gertrude, the Rector interrupted her by
exclaiming, Don't interfere, my dear ; I know
what I am saying ; and the sooner Aubrey
Rice understands it the better ! "
no THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
I must leave Gertrude to speak for herself/
said Aubrey. " I know what she thinks, minus
her father's anger and threats ; when these have
been made known to her, she might wish to
reconsider her position, but in that case she
will not be the Gertrude Hastings I have
always admired for her sense of justice and her
noble independence of character. Doubtless
she may have anticipated your opposition, as
she was so anxious to come with me to-day, but
I thought to spare her a painful interview. If
you will allow me, I will withdraw now, and
rejoin her at the Manor House, where she
came so soon as she had heard of Mrs. Butler-
Edgcombe's great loss."
Gertrude at the Manor House, and we
knew nothing about it ! " exclaimed the Rector,
angrily. How dare she go there without my
permission ! " For the moment he quite forgot
he had himself suggested (when talking over
the Manor House troubles with his wife on
hearing of Maria Edgcombe's death) that if
Gertrude's presence were desired for a few days
it would be wise to sanction her going. But
men of the Rector's calibre seldom allow any one
else the privilege of arriving at a conclusion
with which they perfectly agree so long as the
initiation emanates from themselves. Men of
this type find right to be right because they say
it is so, but if some one else tries to prove the
AN ANGRY RECTOR
1 1 1
fact, then right becomes wrong, and compli-
Half an hour later, as Aubrey, having re-
counted (with a few modifications to spare
Gertrude s feelings) all that had taken place in
the interview at the Rectory, asked for the
answer which was to make or mar his life
happiness, he heard with a thrill of joy words
which in days to come would be the solace of
many a bitter hour — darkened by no ordinary
cloud of sorrow : For better, for worse, I am
yours, Aubrey ! "
" Aunt Matilda " had been more than over-
joyed the day after her sisters death when
her husband came into the darkened room in
which she sat with her new grief, feeling life to
be very desolate, and said, My dear, a young
friend has come to see you. She will be our
guest for a while. I know you have a warm
welcome for Miss Gertrude Hastings."
''Birdie hereV exclaimed Mrs. Butler-Edg-
combe with animation. Oh, how good of her
to come ! "
'* Do you think I could stay away any longer.
Aunt Matilda ? " said the one spoken of as she
threw herself into the arms of the weeping
woman. And the devoted husband said after-
wards it was a sight worth living to see — the
meeting between the bereaved sister and the
young girl so associated in years that were
passed and gone with the dear one mourned.
112 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
Your people, what will they say ? "
whispered Matilda, after a few moments had
I do not think we need trouble about that
question," said Gertrude, lightly. "Once they
felt empowered to make laws for my life, and
I did my best to obey. But I am no longer a
child at home ; I have to think and plan for
myself in other ways, why not in this ? You and
dear Aunt Maria did so much for me when I
was a girl, I can never be grateful enough; and,
please, if you will let me, I am going to stay
with you over the funeral and as long as you
want me. I know it is what Aunt Maria would
like, and Mr. Butler- Edgcombe says he will be
glad to have me at the Manor House; and you,
dear Aunt Matilda, you will not hurry me
away ? "
*' Birdie, child, how could I be other than
glad to have you, when I have longed so for
you ever since you did not come as usual?" said
Mrs. Butler- Edgcombe, tearfully. And at this
point her husband withdrew and left the two
friends together. Later Aubrey Rice found his
way to the Manor House. He was by no
means unmindful of the fact that it was the
house of mourning, but he was glad to openly
discuss new schemes and plans which had very
unexpectedly found an entrance into his life,
and required prompt decision.
AN ANGRY RECTOR
It had been the wish of an old Quaker friend>
when dying, that Aubrey Rice should one day
take his place in a large drapery establishment
in the West-end of London. Only a few
months previously his only son, an Oxford man,
had lost his life in a snowdrift on the Alps.
The position he would have occupied in the
firm of Catchpool Brothers was open for some
one introduced by his father. Presumably it
should have been one whose previous associa-
tion with a drapery business had given the
necessary qualification and training. But ex-
ceptions were occasionally arranged, and Mr.
Horace Gurney, junior partner in the firm of
Catchpool Brothers, petitioned that Aubrey Rice
might serve his apprenticeship to a trade which
would be new to him, by starting as junior
assistant, the partnership to be effected after
the expiration of three years.
Aubrey Rice saw the advantages to be gained
after the probation, when his position would
entitle him to rule and reign over no small
kingdom, whereas financially he would be better
off to-day than if remaining in his present office.
Much to gain and nothing to lose, saving and
excepting Society's smile, about which he was
really at heart quite unmindful. However,
until he had heard what Gertrude had to say,
Aubrey left the matter an open question. Her
very prompt and definite decision for him to
114 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
accept the call to be a tradesman removed all
doubt from his own mind as to the wisdom of
the step. Mr. Hastings' opposition irritated,
but otherwise had no weight with him.
The week following Miss Maria Edgcombe's
funeral, which he attended with Gertrude,
Aubrey left his old work and commenced
Meanwhile Gertrude had paid a visit to the
Rectory, and, in spite of her mother's inter-
vention and remonstrance with her father, had
received her final dismissal from her childhood s
home, unless she consented absolutely to there
and then discard Aubrey Rice. She was
allowed three days in which to consider.
AUBREY RICE IN NEW SURROUNDINGS
Aubrey Rice found much to try both his
courage,, and temper in the new experiences
which came into his Hfe as a business man."
He had early to discover that, with the highest
ideals of such a life and vocation, his world had
grown smaller by the narrowing influences
amidst which he found himself placed. In his
previous work the need for close application to
his own special division of an insurance office's
routine labour had meant attention to detail of
a kind which precluded much intercourse with
his fellow-clerks. His own immediate work
was before him, and no one shared his responsi-
bility in connection with it. The task imposed,
however hum-drum it might become, was still
of a mental order. Figures and facts " had
pretty well summed up the lines upon which his
mind had to travel day by day. The very pre-
cision with which he took and vacated his seat
at the desk, the punctual start and the exact
ending of his toil, with the natural rebound
when office hours were over, and the readiness
to devote his unspent energies of life upon
Il6 THE ROMANCE OF AN 'EMERGENCY
interests which lay outside his work — all this
had meant to Aubrey Rice a well-disciplined
but by no means limited existence.
But everything was different when he became
a draper's assistant. At first his lot was cast
entirely ''in the establishment itself"; in other
words, he was on his feet all day, a learner in
the various departments of the business proper,
coming in closer contact with human nature in
twenty-four hours than he had hitherto done in
a lifetime. The vapid talk, the aimless, object-
less lives of the ordinary shop youths completely
astonished him, while the tendency at all hours
to find excuse to absent themselves for a few
moments to get a "freshener up," otherwise a
"nip" — spirits being more to the majority than
beer — distinctly alarmed him.
In vain he tried to analyse the cause of the
apparent deterioration of character of those
engaged in a business to which he had per-
sonally brought very high ideals. Was it that
men could not stand the details which made
such slight appeal to their mental powers and
faculties ? Was it that the constant effort to
remain calm and unconcerned under the fretting
and irritating influence of some customer hard
to please made demands upon nervous energy
which meant not occasional but incessant mind-
weariness and exhaustion ?
Aubrey was conscious, in the early days of
AUBREY RICE IN NEW SURROUNDINGS II 7
his change, of feeling unduly tired physically
and depressed mentally; yet, for at least twelve
hours out of every twenty-four he was his own
master, and able to brace himself up by bodily
exercise and happy contact with literature,
which at all times took the place, with him, of
congenial society. How easy it would be to
slip and slide into general deterioration of
character if the hours of leisure should chance
to be given to that which had no power to
uplift and improve !
He made a note of these, his first impressions
— which time only served to deepen — hoping
the day would come when he would be in a
position to use very direct influence in this
special matter. Much was done by the Firm by
way of providing good literature. Catchpool
Brothers had always studied the comfort and
general welfare of their employes, and lectures
were occasionally given during the winter
months in the dining-hall of an attractive and
elevating character ; but it was easy to find
excuse for non-attendance — quite two-thirds of
the young men were conspicuous by their
absence. Even had Her Majesty the Queen
honoured them by holding a reception in the
dining-hall it is doubtful whether many would
have cared to attend it. To get out into the
open air, absolutely free from the building in
which they spent their hours of business — to
Il8 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
look upon Other faces than those by which they
had been surrounded all day — to breathe air
which did not convey the thought of "woollens"
and ''long cloths," or the faint perfume of
ribbons and laces — this was to live. Short of
this was to continue the existence which had
started when the day s work began.
Aubrey's idea gravitated rather towards
creating outside interests which, while taking
these young fellows away from the atmosphere
of business life, would yet fully occupy their
leisure. A few enthusiasts amongst their
number, and it would be quite natural, he
believed, for an object to be made sufficiently
alluring to attract even the normally indifferent
man to action. But whatever was done by way
of good influence must be attempted upon the
individual. Wholesale measures had their place,
but philanthropy needed to be worked on a
retail basis if the special need of the special
man were to be met.
"What's going on?" inquired Aubrey, one
morning, as he came upon .a knot of young
fellows talking eagerly in a department which
offered special facilities for "gossip groups"
should no customers chance to be there.
"It's Stanley Pritchard up to his games
again," said one of the older men — a buyer —
stepping from behind the counter, where he was
busy with a junior assistant marking off various
AUBREY RICE IN NEW SURROUNDINGS II 9
goods for which he was responsible, and
approaching Aubrey. It's a thousand pities,"
he added, and his tones were more sympathetic
than severe ; ''he has been frightfully unsteady
of late, and yet there never was a young fellow
of greater promise than Stanley Pritchard six
years ago when he first came to business."
To what do you attribute his change ?
What has he been up to now ? " asked Aubrey.
I think, to answer your questions as you
put them, that he never should have come here.
He is a young man that, as far as I can see,
gravitates towards the bad. He needs planting
in absolutely good surroundings, and of more
limited dimensions than a business such as ours
here. Under the eye of a good man, braced up
by two or three definitely strong and right-
minded fellow-clerks, Pritchard would have
done well enough — at least, that's my opinion ;
but here, if there has been one young fellow
more inclined to go wrong than another, in less
than a week Pritchard would become his bosom
friend. It's only a few months ago that we had
an awful set-out which led to a young man's
" And Pritchard was mixed up in the trouble,
and yet is still here ? " said Aubrey.
''Yes. You see," continued the speaker,
lowering his voice, and so turning that he
stood with his back to the group of young
I20 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
men engaged in animated conversation, **he
happens to be a family connection of our senior
partner, and he is allowed a few indulgences.
By the way, it was thought he would be put
forward for the position you occupy, Mr. Rice.
As an old hand here I happen to know your
prospects in coming here. Stanley feels he
owes you a grudge in some way ; he aimed to
be where you are, and worked steadily for
a while, and made every one believe in his
complete reformation ; but there, he has been
up to his old games again, and no one knows
what the end will be this time."
You have yet to tell me what his old games
are," said Aubrey, greatly interested in the
young man to whom he had been in some way,
it appeared, a rival.
" He's fond of card-playing, and when he has
half a chance he goes in for gambling. More
often than not he wins just enough to keep up
an excitement. Now and again he gets unduly
elated with success, and takes 'too much,'
and then no matter who comes in his way he is
ready to fight them. He got into the hands of
the police last night, and some of these young
fellows have been clubbing together to bail him
out this morning. They are awfully fond of
him, and you will notice that if they can serve
him to-day by doing his work — for which he
won't be very fit — and keeping him out of the
AUBREY RICE IN NEW SURROUNDINGS 12 1
governor's way, they will make every effort.
After all, Pritchard is not a bad fellow at heart ;
if only he would leave card-playing and drinking
alone, he might have a chance."
At this moment the group of young fellows
whose eager talking had arrested Aubrey's
attention suddenly dispersed. Like magic each
returned to his special locality behind the
counter, and all were as busy as possible when
the senior partner of the firm walked leisurely
through the department, and bowed his acknow-
ledgment to the respectful Good morning, sir,"
of Mr. Buncer, the man who had been talking
You here, Rice ? " he said, and his tone
implied he was not altogether pleased. Mr.
Everet- Arnold had never been too pleased with
Aubrey, whose connection with the firm was
not by any means agreeable to him. He would
have preferred to place his second son, when of
suitable age, in the position Aubrey Rice was in
training to fill. True, his junior partner had
the full right to establish the man chosen by
himself in that position, but after the death of
his son it had been as good as settled in Mr.
Everet-Arnold's mind that no one would be
brought forward ; hence the way was open for
the son alluded to. Thus when, just before his
death, Mr. Gurney had sent for him and ex-
plained his reasons for wishing Aubrey Rice to
122 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
succeed to the position his son s death had left
open, there was nothing for it but to agree to
the plan. At the same time Mr. Everet- Arnold
never felt quite at ease with the one whose
advent into the firm had frustrated his own
Aubrey knew instinctively that he was not a
favourite with the senior partner, but he hoped
to earn his esteem as time went on. The man-
ner in which the question was put, ''You here,
Rice ? " also convinced Mr. Buncer of the fact
which he had from the first suspected.
'' I came in the discharge of a duty, sir,"
Aubrey replied, with some display of spirit,
" but I plead guilty to having taken longer than
I need have done. I will be more careful not to
waste time in future."
"You will do well to be careful. Rice," said
the senior partner, coldly. ''You will find your
training as a clerk, when presumably you had
plenty of time for gossip, is not likely to do you
good service here. Exactness and promptitude,
sir, are our watchwords as business men. If
you have to visit a department on some express
errand, get through your work with speed and
go away; one loiterer makes many."
Aubrey's cheeks flushed under the implied
reproof. He, however, kept his temper, and,
nodding to Mr. Buncer, beat a hasty retreat as
Mr. Everet-Arnold continued his peregrinations
AUBREY RICE IN NEW SURROUNDINGS 1 23
through the spacious establishment of Catchpool
Brothers. Long before the day was over Aubrey
had forgotten the annoyance which moved him
to a good deal of inward anger at the moment,
but he did not forget that one, Stanley Pritchard,
a young man about his own age, and — for he
found an opportunity of getting an introduction
to him in the dinner time — not unlike himself in
height and figure, was running every chance of
wasting his life.
What could he do to prevent it ?
A BANK HOLIDAY VISITOR
Mrs. Rice was keeping her bed with a cold ;
nothing to make her son anxious, but the fact
was in itself sufficient to determine his move-
ments for the August bank holiday. He would
stay at home, and the old servant might take
herself off for the day, a privilege gratefully
accepted. But for this arrangement Aubrey
would have spent the holiday with Gertrude in
her Vicarage home. He contrived to see her
for a few hours almost every Saturday, and
once he had met her in town and brought her
down to see his mother.
The experiment had not answered. Mrs.
Rice had simply stared at her future daughter-
in-law, and maintained a grave silence all the
time she was in the house. When addressed
by Aubrey she only replied by nodding assent
or shaking her head to imply the reverse.
Gertrude was much struck by the pathetic
scene, and her heart glowed with sympathy for
Aubrey, condemned to live every day with one
whose mental condition was so depressing. It
needed all his assurances that '*love lightened
A BANK HOLIDAY VISITOR 1 25
the burden " to remove from her mind the
weight of sadness which settled upon it as she
realised what this sorrow must mean to him.
Her visit had been shortened, and never
repeated ; yet, strange to say, a week later
and Mrs. Rice asked her faithful servant
where the pretty lady was," enjoining upon
her not to let her come again until Mr. Harold
had returned !
The bank holiday was drawing to a close
when a ring at the front door bell led Aubrey
to go downstairs to interview a visitor. To his
great astonishment, and not in any way to his
displeasure, he found it to be Stanley Pritchard.
Hitherto Aubrey s advances towards the young
man whom he longed to help into a steadier
life had signally failed. Pritchard evidently
had no intention of growing too intimate with
his rival. Like all minds weakened by self-
indulgence, he retained a strong prejudice —
daily increasing under the pressure of thought
centring itself upon it — against the man who
had, he believed, shadowed his prospects in
life. The subject had never been mentioned
between them, but had Stanley Pritchard said
openly, Rice, I dislike you immensely," he
could scarcely have gone further to prove what
his mannerism plainly asserted to Aubrey when
they chanced to meet.
Hence to find him at the door when he
126 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
Opened it, in answer to the bell, was a great
surprise to Aubrey. The next minute and he
was telling himself it was the reward of his
labour. Stanley had at length been won to
believe that he cared for him and wished him
Do you mind coming up to my den ? " he
said after the first surprised greeting was over.
" I am housekeeper and nurse combined to-day.
My poor mother is slightly ill, and I have
induced her to keep her bed. My room is next
to hers, but if we talk quietly we shall not
disturb her. Do you mind coming up ? "
You are awfully kind," said Stanley as he
followed Aubrey up the staircase, and he trod
softly and spoke in hushed tones. Aubrey
looked in upon his mother before drawing to
the door which shut her room from his ; then
he sat down after seeing Pritchard in the most
comfortable chair which his den " afforded.
I am very glad to see you, my dear fellow,"
Aubrey said, warmly ; he was impressed by the
fact that Stanley felt it worth calling upon him
on bank holiday, and at once saw an oppor-
tunity of getting some influence over him ;
but how did you find my address ? "
The cashier gave it me," said Stanley,
Oh, then, you intended coming down before
you left business on Saturday," said Aubrey ;
why did you not tell me at the time ? "
A BANK HOLIDAY VISITOR 1 27
''It was after you had gone," said Stanley.
I happened to tell Warburton I expected to
be this way to-day. I have an aunt lives quite
close to you — Mrs. Spinot, of Clive Villa West
— suppose you don't know her ? and he said
'why, Mr. Rice lives near there,' so he gave
me your address."
"Then you have come down to spend the
day with your aunt — is that it? and you thought
you would look me up ? " Aubrey felt there
was some hesitation in Stanley's manner, and
he spoke more to put him at his ease than to
" No ; I haven't been to see my aunt yet,"
was the reply. " The fact is," he jerked out,
nervously, "I'm in a little trouble, and I came
to you to ask your help. I know we've not
been much more than strangers to each other,
but I feel you're the man of all others I respect,
and I can tell you my troubles as I couldn't tell
any one else."
Aubrey brightened at this. Surely the
opportunity longed for had come. Stanley's
willingness to repose confidence in him was a
positive pleasure at that moment, with his mind
set upon being of some service to the young
" Suppose you start by telling me your
trouble," said Aubrey, and he threw himself
back in his chair, prepared to listen.
128 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
''Well, you see," said Stanley, reddening,
*' I've been trying to keep straight lately. The
fact is, I see what a fool I've been, and I'm
determined to do better, but I'm pestered to
death by an old chum, down in his luck, poor
chap, to whom I owe a ten-pound note, and for
the life of me I don't know which way to look
for it ! My fiftieth cousin twice removed, Mrs.
Everet-Arnold, advanced me this month's screw
and next, to help me out of a little difficulty
which has no connection with the present one.
I haven't the face to go to her again, and my
home folks are awfully poor. Dad's been ill for
the last two years, and an officer's half-pay
does not go far ; then my mother would break
her heart if she thought I was in debt."
" I scarcely see how I can spare you that
sum," said Aubrey, as Stanley Pritchard paused.
I am not too well off myself, and I have to
save every penny I can put together as I hope
to be married in twelve months or so."
" Lucky beggar!" said Stanley, warmly. " I
wish I'd your hopes. I've been engaged for
the last three years to a jolly little girl, an all-
round good sort, one who'll do what she likes
with me one of these days ; but there, Fve no
prospect of marrying — that is, not much before
I'm forty at the rate I am going on now — "
''But, Pritchard, you must stop the * going
on ' to which you refer. You have surely done
A BANK HOLIDAY VISITOR
with sowing wild oats ; for the little girl's sake
you must settle down into a staid, sensible
fellow ! "
Ton my word, Rice, but that's just what I
want to do, and nothing will help me better
than getting quit of my debt to my old chum,
for he's always looking me up, and go or come
where he will, he carries a pack of cards in his
pocket, and he gets me clean into a game before
I know where I am ! "
" I think you will ha^^e to sign the pledge
against drink and cards before I can even think
of helping you with money," said Aubrey,
With all my heart ! " said Pritchard, warmly.
''You know I will do anything in the world for
a fellow I respect."
It seemed to Aubrey at that moment a good
plan to secure Stanley's pledge ; it might be
some restraint upon him in the future, and at
least it would give him further opportunity of
cultivating the acquaintance of the poor fellow.
So, after a little considering, Aubrey drew up
an agreement worded briefly but definitely, and
Stanley Pritchard signed it — his own signature
appearing below as witness.
Then Mrs. Rice tapped on the wall, and
Aubrey went quickly to her assistance. It was
quite five minutes before his return. Stanley
Pritchard had spent his time looking round
130 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
with marked curiosity and interest. He might
have been a private detective, so carefully
did he lift things up from desk and table and
place them back again exactly into their right
places. A blotting book caught his attention.
It was one Gertrude had sent Aubrey as a birth-
day present. The firm cover — rosewood, with
soft leather let in at the back — was lined with
watered silk, upon which could be seen a few
ink stains, due to the fact of the case being
closed upon a newly-written letter. Stanley
was much attracted by the strange lines placed
backwards, with mere hints of what they were
intended for. An unfinished M " was allied
with an imperfect ''y," but the word "dear" stood
out intact, only a shade or two lighter than it
would have been upon the original letter, and
smudged as would be natural when a silky
substance had come in contact with half-dried
Stanley Pritchard was standing by the win-
dow, carelessly glancing at the view of back-
gardens and chimney pots, when Aubrey
''Ton my word, I feel awfully in your way,"
he said, in tones of apology.
I think I told you my mother's servant was
out for a holiday," said Aubrey.
You said you were housekeeper, or some-
thing of that sort," replied Stanley, ''so, of
course, I drew my own conclusions. About
A BANK HOLIDAY VISITOR
that ten pounds, shall I give you an I O U
"Not necessarily," said Aubrey. ''I shall
have to write a cheque, and I will get you to
sign the counterfoil, where I will put * borrowed.'
When do you think of repaying it ? "
"In six weeks' time from now. Will that
" Certainly ; I shall be glad of it then.
Meanwhile you will keep this pledge which
you have signed in your pocket, and when
tempted to break it just read it over. That
sort of thing has helped many a man to stand
" Thanks, awfully ; I won't forget. 'Pon my
word, you're a brick. But you'll not tell my
fiftieth cousin's husband — otherwise Mr. Everet-
Arnold — what you've done for me, will you ?
It would make it a little awkward."
Aubrey promised to make no mention to
any one about the small transaction. He wrote
out the cheque, and Stanley Pritchard signed
the counterfoil under the word "borrowed."
Then, after more thanks and more promises of
an amended life, he withdrew, leaving Aubrey
to wonder how far his words might be accepted
as the sincere purpose of his heart. Anyway
he felt encouraged by the fact that Pritchard
had sought him out and confided his difficulty
A LOST LATCH-KEY
Mr. Buncer was uneasy. Clearly things were
not going very well with Aubrey Rice, and,
personally, he liked the young man, and wished
for him a safe arrival at the destination he had
in view, namely, a junior partnership in the
firm of Catchpool Brothers. Mr. Buncer's
anxieties were based upon hints thrown out by
Stanley Pritchard, who, to all appearances, had
at length turned over most completely a new
Do you notice how the governor hates our
friend Rice ? " Stanley asked Mr. Buncer one
day. " I don't wonder very much either. He's
more than a bit of a prig. He has such a very
superior air. Why, he found two apprentices
having an innocent toss-up the day before
yesterday, and he gave them a lecture as long
as your arm — of which the youngsters made
high game when he had passed on."
I think he was right," said Mr. Buncer.
" Everything has a beginning. Destroy the
acorn and it can't grow into an oak tree."
Well, every one to his taste," said Stanley,
A LOST LATCH-KEY
sneeringly. I, for one, should never like to
see Aubrey Rice master here. He'll turn the
lot of us into pious hypocrites in no time. I
could a tale unfold, but I don't mean to split
unless the unexpected happens, and then,
perhaps, I'll have to astonish the natives by
speaking out a bit of my mind. By the way,
what's happened ? Has the young man grown
suddenly rich that he can afford to be married
this autumn instead of waiting as he intended
until next year ? "
I think we won't discuss Mr. Rice's affairs,
Pritchard," said Mr. Buncer, at length roused
to stop this idle gossip. For my part, I like
the young man very much. He has always
inspired confidence with me, but I can't help
seeing he's not just in favour with the
''You wouldn't wonder if you knew all I
know," was Stanley's reply, such stress laid
upon the words that their insinuating meaning
was painfully apparent.
It was after this conversation with Stanley
Pritchard that Mr. Buncer felt so uneasy in his
mind. He determined to seize the first
opportunity of getting a word with Mr. Rice.
Without appearing to be curious, he could soon
gather whether Pritchard's information — re-
specting his coming marriage, for instance — had
any truth in it.
134 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
. He was not long before he found his oppor-
tunity. It was late in September. The
autumn season was in full swing. The firm of
Catchpool Brothers was unusually busy, the
well-dressed windows, for one of which Aubrey
had to be responsible (the result of his effort in
the decorative line being a charming work of
art), gathering many admirers from passers-by,
and bringing many customers into the shop.
Perhaps few realise, when gazing into the
windows of a high-class drapery establishment,
at what cost of labour the ''goods" have been
thus daintily exposed to view. The greatest
authority on dress — at least, so a Parisienne
lady of to-day would assure us — has the
reputation of having started life as an errand
boy in one of our largest Regent Street houses.
Chancing one day to pick out from his sweep-
ings a variety of colours, he placed them on the
counter, calling attention to their beautiful
blending. His master chanced to see what
had been done, and from that hour that young
lad was called to fame. He had a gift — the gift
of colour-blending. His efforts had no place
for failure. Intuitively he saw what would best
please and rest the eye, and he worked accord-
ingly, until in time he became the one authority
before whom all women of fashion (not to say
frivolity) passed in sober earnest to know if he
considered their costume ''in order" and "good
A LOST LATCH-KEY
Something of this gift Aubrey Rice must
have possessed, for he quickly caught the idea
of dressing a window, and won lavish praise
from many to whom such work meant only toil
" I have been admiring your handiwork, Mr.
Rice," said Buncer one morning, as they chanced
to meet on their way to the dining hall. I
have seen a good deal of window-dressing in
my day, but nothing that took my fancy more
than yours ! "
Aubrey Rice laughed. I had no idea I had
any taste in that direction ; no knowing where
I should be by now if I had started earlier."
Is it true you are soon to be married, Mr.
Rice ? I thought you had no intention of
being so until next year."
This was a bold question for Buncer to put.
He had no right of friendship which could
justify curious questions about Aubrey's private
Mr. Rice coloured, and he did not speak at
ease when replying—
I am expecting to be married before next
month's out. It would be interesting to know
how this piece of news has reached you, Mr.
Buncer ? "
Oh, nothing out of the way in Catchpool
Brothers for rumours to get wind," he replied,
evasively. "I heard it just now in a way that
136 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
might be complimentary to your success, for it
comes quite naturally to associate getting on in
life with settling down. Perhaps you have had
a fortune left you, Mr. Rice ? "
If the previous question had been more or
less suggestive of presumption on Buncer's part,
Aubrey felt this one to be almost impertinent.
Although seeking to be on the best of terms
with every one associated with the business
which had so strangely become his lot, he had
never encouraged familiarity ; hence even Mr.
Buncer, whom he had hitherto held in great
respect, could not be expected to make any
demands upon his personal confidence.
" I am afraid I must decline to discuss my
private affairs with you, Mr. Buncer," he said,
coldly, and he turned round and walked away
from the dining hall, which they were at that
As Buncer went in and took his seat at the
table his thoughts turned instinctively to
Pritchard's insinuations against Rice's character.
To do Buncer justice, he was by no means a pry-
ing, meddling - with - the - affairs - of - other - people
kind of man. He had assumed the curious
friend " from motives which were in no sense to
be condemned. He wanted to clear up in his
own mind the doubt instilled into it by
Pritchard's words. He wanted to be in a posi-
tion to say to that young man, ''You are
A LOST LATCH-KEY
labouring under a delusion ; Mr. Aubrey Rice is
all square and above board, and if the governor
does happen to be prejudiced against him, it
cannot injure his upright character."
But — and here came the pity of it — Aubrey
Rice's words were not just what the sensitive
Buncer had expected them to be, and his manner
was distinctly unfavourable.
It was about a fortnight after this that Aubrey,
who had scarcely spoken to Mr. Buncer since
the unfortunate interview, beyond the "good
morning " which courtesy claimed when they
met for the first time in the day, came up
to him and said, There is a little mystery
about a lost latch-key. When I reached home
yesterday afternoon I missed mine from my
greatcoat pocket. I remember seeing it about
noon when I went to the lobby to get a
memorandum book from my coat, and I suppose
I must by accident have put it back into some
other coat pocket. I have been enquiring of
Jones, and he says your coat-peg has been
moved and is next to mine. Have you seen
anything of my key ? "
" Nothing at all, Mr. Rice ; but don't let me
be too sure it isn't there. Will you be good
enough to examine my pockets for yourself? "
When you have a minute to spare, if you
will come with me," replied Aubrey ; and seeing
the senior partner in the distance, he beat a
138 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
hasty retreat. No need to court his displeasure.
He felt every day how unfortunate it was that
a man with whom he would by-and-bye in the
natural order of events have very close business
connections was so disastrously hostile to him.
The opportunity to examine Buncer's pockets
of his greatcoat came late in the afternoon,
but nothing was to be found of the missing
" It is a singular loss," said Aubrey, looking
perplexed. " Of course it can be easily
repaired ; that's one blessing ! "
You have, of course, well examined a/l the
pockets of your own coat," said Buncer,
Yes, all," replied Aubrey, as he spoke,
taking the coat down from its peg and holding
it bottom upwards, giving it a good shake. A
stray copper or two fell out, a pair of gloves
came well to view at the mouth of the large
pocket, and — as if late to make up its mind to
appear — down came the missing latch-key to the
Well, I never ! " exclaimed Buncer, looking
Where can it have come from.^^" said Aubrey,
who looked very much mystified.
From a pocket you forgot to examine, Mr.
Rice," said Buncer, laughing. It's an old
way of making a mistake. I congratulate you
that the missing article has come to light."
A LOST LATCH-KEY
" But it has not come to light ; I mean
something needs explaining," said Aubrey,
colouring. ''It was not there when I got
home yesterday afternoon, nor when I left this
morning. Some one has been playing me a
A practical joke, rather," said Buncer, look-
ing amused. Jones is in charge here ; he will
be in the secret and, perhaps, supply the
But Jones repeated, even with anger, that he
knew nothing whatever about it, and ventured
to ask if it were worth all this fuss and parade
about a paltry key which could any day be
replaced for ninepence or tenpence ?
The incident was altogether forgotten by
Aubrey by the following week, when all thought
and attention were claimed by plans and affairs
incidental to his wedding. Although not
expecting this to take place until some day
in the next year, he was convinced that under
the new circumstances which had arisen in
Gertrude's life — yet to be explained to the
reader — it was not only right but best to
arrange matters promptly ; and, after all, what
joy it would be to settle down ! If he had a
wish that it might have been a larger and
better furnished house to which he brought
Gertrude as his bride than, the one for so many
years the home of his mother and himself and
140 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
the faithful servant, he set it aside. Gertrude
would understand, and perhaps be happier for
a while in the smaller house ; and in every way
changes were undesirable for his aged mother.
''Would it be convenient for you to pay back
the ;^io borrowed in August, Pritchard ? "
Aubrey asked, two days before leaving business
for ten days' holiday — the senior partner had
been informed of his coming marriage when
permission was asked to anticipate the few
days allowed at Christmas by taking them now,
and, in a moment of generosity, had doubled
the privileged time.
"Awfully sorry, but cruelly hard up!" was
the reply. I mean," he added quickly, as if
wishing to remove any false impression of
poverty, '' I only have enough for my imme-
diate wants ; no spare cash since I gave up
the card-table. There are trials even in keep-
ing straight. I shall always feel grateful to
you for putting me right, and if you '11 trust me
until next pay day I'll give you as much as I
" For your own sake, clear the debt as soon
as you can," said Rice, moving away, some one
at the moment claiming his attention.
" Does the cur mean that as a threat ?" said
Pritchard to himself. *' A nice Christian thing
to say. Sneak ! I '11 be even with him yet.
Does the fool, I wonder, think I'm a little
A LOST LATCH-KEY
namby-pamby baby to give up my cards and
betting at his bidding ? Ah, a good joke ! "
No. Aubrey Rice did not think Pritchard had
given up either card playing or betting (which
giving up, by the way he measured life, would
have meant strength, not weakness), and because
he pretended to have done so he lost heart over
him, and knew, practically, that the £\o lent to
him would never be paid back.
Aubrey did not affect to keep a diary, but he
had a fairly thick volume intended for one, and
in this were various entries, for the most part
quaint sayings or incidents which had struck
him as worth remembering. Very occasionally
he scribbled down an impression made upon
his own mind by some passing event. That
evening he wrote in his note-book —
There are queer and various shaped devils,
even supposing their colour is uniform. Stanley
P. s tribe is peculiarly twisted. He thinks he
deceives me, but I haven't the courage to tell
him I see through him. He certainly is a
splendid actor. May God forgive him ! It's
an awful thing for a young man, of his own
deliberate accord, to throw his own life away.
I am sorry he ever came here ; the memory of
that visit casts a shadow over my den. A very
little more and I should hate the fellow."
A GRAVE BARGAIN
Before going back to Gertrude Hastings, whom
we left forming a decision which would entitle
her to her Rectory home or banish her from
it, namely, whether or not she would consent to
break off her engagement with Aubrey Rice
after he had been called to exchange an office
in the city for a position in a house of business,
we must make the acquaintance of one who
cannot be altogether ignored in the telling of
We find her some three months previous to
the events narrated in the last chapter — one
day in the last week of July — in a house (in
which it was evident she had only apartments)
in Guildford Street, Bloomsbury. She was
anticipating an interview which, it would seem,
made great demands upon her temper, for every
now and then she clenched her small hand, or,
walking to the window, stamped her little foot,
either action suggestive of the determination
to brace herself up for some impending conflict.
At length the one expected arrived. She
saw him coming down the street in one of her
A GRAVE BARGAIN
journeys to the window. Then, with a hasty
glance at a mirror which hung over the fire-
place, assuring herself that she was looking
her best — oh ! what a pretty face it was, not
young. But still round and with healthy colour-
ing, to which at this moment excitement had
added some charm — she took her seat where
she could watch the opening of the door leading
into the room.
A few moments later and Stanley Pritchard
entered. He came in looking tired and
haggard, an anguished expression upon his
face, listlessness and signs of boredom in every
movement and gesture.
The little lady in the chair inclined her head,
greeting the visitor, who had entered without
. knocking, with a stately bow.
" Well, Judith," said the one addressed,
closing the door behind him and lolling against
it for support, have come to see you at great
inconvenience. Have the goodness to tell me
briefly what important business made you send
A nice greeting for a wife to receive after
her husband s nearly six months' absence," said
the little lady in the chair, stiffly. Anyway,
I'll not forget my manners. Take a seat, sir,"
and she waved her right arm with commanding
gesture towards a chair opposite to herself.
Stanley moved a smaller one from its
144 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
position by the wall, and putting it down in a
line with the one indicated, but some few feet
further away, he sat down and said, ''You
know it was agreed we should never see each
other again, Judith ; what's the use of raking
up old grievances ? You get your pay —
the pay we mutually agreed upon — regularly ;
why talk as if I had neglected you ? You know
until the last day or two you had no wish to see
me, and since you wrote I have not lost much
time in coming. (By the way, have the good-
ness to direct any letter in future to my private
address. It is not safe to send to the firm ;
might land me in no end of trouble ! ) "
I am not likely to annoy you by a fruitless
correspondence," said the little lady in the chair,
and she posed her right elbow on the arm, and,
supporting her chin in the palm of her hand,
gazed earnestly into the young man's face.
When she spoke her words fell from her lips
slowly, deliberately ; they came as words are
apt to come when they have been rehearsed
over and over again — they lacked the ring of
spontaneous originality — '* I wanted to see you
now partly to tell you what I think of you, and
partly to lay a plan before you which will be
very much to your interest to consider — "
** Well, supposing you cut it short by leaving
out your first point ? — I know pretty well what
you think of me — and let me hear your proposal,"
A GRAVE BARGAIN
said he, and there was something akin to a
sneer in his tones.
''That would spoil it all," was Judith's reply.
'' But," she continued, '' I will let you off mildly.
You shall read what I think of you in your own
admissions ! " She paused ; then, still with a
fixed gaze upon Stanley, went on. '' Did you,
some four years ago, during your summer holi-
days in Wales, make the acquaintance of a
widow and her daughter, and stuff them up
with plausible tales — lies every one of them —
and finally get engaged and married to that
girl ? Answer, sir, did you ? "
*' Yes," said Stanley, ''that is, perhaps I was
not quite straightforward in telling you my posi-
tion and circumstances at the time, but I was
honourable enough in marrying you."
" Breaking some one else's heart by doing so,
cad ! " and the chin lifted itself as if in scorn,
while the hand upon which it rested clenched
itself and came down heavily upon the table
near. " Did you persuade my mother to sell
her little freehold, promising to invest the
money to great advantage, and finally robbing
her of every shilling of it — say, did you or did
you not do this ? " and again the clenched hand
struck the table near.
" I— I—"
"It's 'yes' or 'no,'" said Judith, sternly.
" Confess, sir, have I not stated the whole
truth, and nothing but the truth ? "
146 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
Yes, with slight exaggerations — a woman's
way of putting things!" said Stanley, with scorn.
Silence ! It's not for you to teach me how
to be truthful ! You don't know even the
A B C of that language. Wait, I haven't
done. Are you, having ruined my life and
happiness, besides breaking the heart of an
innocent girl who loved you to devotion, and
to whom you were engaged when you posed
as my lover, are you at the present moment
making advances — what you call love — to Mr.
Everet-Arnold's only daughter, quite oblivious
of the existence of our marriage lines, which
my mother has in her safe keeping ? Say —
don't lie to me, for I can read you through and
through — is what I say a fact ? "
''You were ill in May," stammered Stanley,
in confusion. "The doctor thought you would
not live. I was only anticipating a freedom I
expected soon to be mine. How on earth did
you get to hear of it, Judith ? "
" That has nothing to do with it," she replied,
tapping her little foot upon the ground. "If I
care to make plans to counteract your wicked-
ness, that's my account. Enough to tell you
your base and brutal character is known, fully
known, to those who will enlighten Ruth
Everet-Arnold, if the need comes for her to
know. Just, in passing, let me ask what you
think of a man who could act in this heathen,
this wickedly profane way ? "
A GRAVE BARGAIN
Stanley Pritchard literally quailed under his
wife's searching glance.
" I think he's a fool," he said at length, as he
waited in vain for the pause to be ended.
Then you quite understand you have to
promise me on oath you will not tamper with
the affections of Ruth Everet- Arnold ? You
understand the penalty ? At a sign from me,
and the whole truth comes out, and you will be
— and most deservedly; — blackballed for life.
Promise ; vow. Quick ! I have only a few
moments to spare for this interview, and I have
much more to say yet."
I promise you, Judith. I'll not see more
of Ruth than I can help, and I'll not forget —
you hold our marriage lines ! "
I should like to believe you," said the
little lady, with a sigh, ''but it is absolutely
impossible. Still, I shall have my eye upon
you, and if I see any need to tell my story, i/
wtl/ be told, remember, and the world will know
what kind of a man Stanley Pritchard has been
and is ! But, now to business."
She rose from her seat and drew a step
nearer to Stanley. When she next spoke, her
tones were lower and intensely earnest.
'* You robbed my mother of four hundred and
seventy-five pounds in hard cash, the sum
realised by the sale of her little home. You
allow me a week, £^2 a year. If I live to
14^ THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
be ninety, counting my age now at thirty-five,
you will have spent two thousand eight hundred
and sixty pounds upon me. Add that to four
hundred and seventy-five, and you get a total
of three thousand three hundred and thirty-five
pounds. Now, I have a proposal to m.ake.
You may square up all accounts between us,
that is, the money due to my mother on her
freehold and the sum due to me as long as I
may live (and it is bound to be well over ninety,
for we are a long-lived family, you see) — I will
let you off everything for five hundred pounds
paid down within the next three months. I will
sign a legal agreement releasing you from any
further monetary responsibilities, and I will take
myself off with my mother to the colonies,
where we have both a pressing invitation to
mingle our lots with an aged brother of my poor
But how am I to find £^oo ? " gasped
Stanley, who, to speak truly, was looking
intensely relieved by his wife's proposition.
Ages ago he had grown tired of her, and barely
six months previous to this interview he had
very gladly agreed to a separation on the
ground of incompatibility of temper. It was
always more or less a cause of irritation to
think of his wife as living so near to him. He
had told so many untruths in order to win her.
A born actor, and with no sense of truth,
A GRAVE BARGAIN
Stanley Pritchard was gifted — as fortunately
few are — in that fatal power of personating an
altogether imaginary character. He lived in a
fictitious world, peopled with fictitious people.
He had a rich uncle somewhere to the front,
and a godfather who made him his special care.
For himself, he was well to do ; his people were
abroad. He would have gone with them, only
his position in a wholesale firm in the city was
far too good to be lightly thrown up. It was
enough to know the Firm had, owing to his
recent illness, given him six months leave of
absence upon full pay — twenty-five pounds a
month — to show in what estimation they held
him, and so forth.
It had been a cruel awakening to his wife to
find that the messages read to her from time to
time (before her marriage and after) from his
parents were gross fabrications. In a moment
of sudden anger he had let fall the fact that his
people knew nothing whatever of his move-
ments, and he never intended they should.
(This was some time after they had come up
to live in London.) At the time of their
separation Judith had had good cause to regard
much of what had been told her previous to her
marriage as a cleverly arranged tissue of lies.
Amongst other things her husband was some
eight years younger than he had represented
himself to be. His certificate of birth had
150 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
been sought by a lawyer, and his parentage
duly ascertained ; this was in measure satis-
factory, but in no way agreeing with previous
representations. It was also discovered that a
certain Colonel Silver, the reputed godfather
from whom cheques had certainly come from
time to time, was actually in existence. Beyond
this Judith and her mother knew next to nothing
of the man whose handsome face and pleasant
manners had won their friendship at a time
when he was supposed to be recovering from
the long illness referred to, and after very
troubled experiences, in which they had proved
him to be a man of most unscrupulous character,
with that tendency to drift downwards which is
so fatal to hope in the future, the separation
had been decided upon as the lesser of two
evils. If Stanley Pritchard was bent upon
his own ruin, he must go alone and not take his
wife and mother-in-law with him ! "
The freedom which this separation had
brought the mother and daughter from the
daily possibility of evil had been a great relief
after the years of turmoil and unrest. Stanley
himself was too much steeped in selfishness to
be otherwise than glad to escape restrictions
which the poorest attempt at home life had
imposed, but he had always regretted that his
wife and mother-in-law had remained in London.
Hence the plan suggested by Judith came
A GRAVE BARGAIN
as a sudden ray of satisfaction although the
conditions were somewhat alarming. How
am I to find ;^500? " he gasped.
Insure your life ; borrow of some rich
friend to whom you can pay back a week
— my pay hitherto ; as broad as it is long,"
was the quick answer. ''You understand
my bargain admits of no modification? I
want the ;^500, and I must have it, the
sooner the better, but anyway before the
winter sets in. You have ruined our happi-
ness, spoilt our lives ; it is the very least
you can do by way of reparation. Set us
free to go out of this country, right away from
the bitter recollections associated with yourself."
*' I will see what can be done and let you
hear from me," Stanley said, after a pause in
which he appeared in deep thought. *'The
insurance sounds feasible enough ; if I fail
there, there are other ways."
''Honourable ways, remember," said his wife,
laying great stress upon the adjective.
" Of course. Do you take me for — "
For what I have proved you to be," replied
Judith, as her husband broke off, passion
making it difficult to frame his words.
''We may as well end this," he said, rising,
and biting his lips. " Good-bye, Judith," he
continued, nodding to her and moving towards
the door. " Tell your mother I have enquired
152 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
- " You have two things to remember, Stanley,"
said his wife ; it was the first time during that
interview that she had addressed him by his
Christian name. Great as the one is relating
to the ;^500, the other referring to Ruth Everet-
Arnold is greater. I warn you her father shall
hear the whole story of our marriage if I see
reason to give it ! "
For heaven's sake, don't take the bread out
of my mouth, Judith," exclaimed Stanley. I
am in good favour with the governor to-day,
and am as likely as not making my way on
towards a partnership in Catchpool Brothers.
I shall have very good chances if things keep
straight. Why should you spoil everything by
your wretched spite ? "
You can go, sir," said his wife, waving her
hand towards the door. The programme for
our interview did not include abuse ! "
Stanley lost no time in taking his departure.
It was when his retreating footsteps had died
away, and the closing of the hall door had
announced that he had left the house, that the
little lady, who had throughout the interview
maintained so much dignity, threw herself on to
the couch, weeping bitterly. She lay with her
face downwards, buried in a cushion, which
hushed her sobs into broken and muffled
**Oh, Stanley, Stanley!" she wailed, **why
A GRAVE BARGAIN
did you come to spoil my life ? Why did you
teach me to care for you, and then spurn the
very love you had awakened ? Why have you
taught me to think of you at your best but a
hideous deception, an ugly lie ? Why has
nature painted you so fair to look upon, and in
your heart there lurks a devil ? I call you
hateful, and I know you to be mean and
despicable, yet, oh, Stanley, if I could only
find one little bit of truth about you I would
let you see my love is not all dead ! But never,
never again shall my sweet mother be tortured
by your cunning and deceitful ways. No, dear,
she at least must be spared more suffering.
Your five hundred pounds will take her out to
those who know and love her, making her in
measure independent. I can work, and will earn
money with which to come home again when
the right time comes — when my sweet mother
can spare me. . . . Then, oh, Stanley, will
it be to die of a broken heart, knowing your
evil life, or to wile you back to that love which
was so sweet while it lasted ? . . . But
I must come ; I must be at hand should you
want me. I could not let you spoil my
mother's life and mine ; but some day, when
it is only my own of which I have to think,
who knows what might happen ? I might even
tell you then how I made up the romance about
Ruth Everet- Arnold, which frightened you so
154 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
much to-day, out of a look which I saw you
give her as you came out with her on your arm
from the concert at St. James s Hall last week !
You never saw your poor little wife amongst
the crowd, nor guessed how her ears had caught
the name of Everet- Arnold when they called it
out to say his carriage stopped the way ! Ruth
is pretty — your own hands put her photograph
in my album years ago — I am not likely to
forget her, for once you confessed to liking her
as a young school-girl a little . . . and I tell
you, sir, that sooner than she should grow to
care for you, the miserable farce we are playing
shall end ! I will see the Everet- Arnolds, tell
them who I am, get our marriage recognised,
even though it is handicapped and fettered
to-day by the legal separation ! "
Thus musing, the little lady had very nearly
worked herself up to a ''passion of fury," when
the door of the room in which she was sitting
opened, and an elderly lady entered.
'' Did you get well through your painful
interview, my poor child?" she said, as she
lovingly kissed her daughter's fevered brow.
*'Ah, I fear it has been too much for you!
Oh, Judith, that we could go back to the
time before he came to spoil our lives, when we
were all the world to each other in our little
home in Wales."
"Well, we will soon be further away from
A GRAVE BARGAIN I 55
our trouble, darling/' said Judith, growing
suddenly very cheerful. ** Stanley has agreed
to the plan about the money. I only hope his
stories about his rich godfather are not as
mythical as so many other facts of his are. But
that he had some one to borrow it of, I should
never have dared to make the suggestion. Still,
supposing he has, why should we lose the
money which means our freedom ? "
And, for reply, Judith's mother only sighed
deeply, and shook her head scornfully. To
her it seemed as if her daughter's life had been
hopelessly spoiled, and her own happiness,
wrapped up as it had been in that of her only
child's, had been ruined beyond remedy, as far
as this world was concerned. Distance might
a little lessen the ignominy and disgrace of a
marriage so associated with all that was painful,
but inasmuch as she herself had been greatly to
blame in sanctioning the union before testing
the young man's story, she had long ago
decided that the suffering involved must be
borne patiently and in silence. No exposure
of their wrongs could change or substantially
improve the character of the man who, whi.e
so prepossessing in appearance, and with
manners which ladies are apt to describe as
simply enchanting," had a heart as black as
ink," judged by the life which was a tissue of
fabrication and deceit.
156 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
Poor Mrs. Grey is not the only mother who
has to regret receiving a son-in-law into the
family about whose family and previous personal
history far too little is known. Nor is she
singular in preferring to bear her misfortunes in
silence rather than take the world into her
Miss Hastings, where are you ? "
It was Daisys voice calling, and there was
eagerness, if not excitement, in the tone.
Gertrude was sitting in a summer-house at
the end of the Vicarage garden. It was a
glorious day in April (of the year of whose
autumn we have spoken in the last chapter), one
that comes to us in the midst of easterly winds
and morning frosts, to encourage hope for the
summer not far distant, probably to give place
on the morrow to the cold which the winter had
brought in and left, but all the same to be
to-day enjoyed as a real and delightful pos-
Miss Hastings had taken her book into the
garden an hour ago, and had sat where her
little pupils could see her from the schoolroom
window, until the last ten minutes, when she
had withdrawn to the summer-house, anxious to
write some letters.
To Daisy s question Gertrude gave quick
answer by replying in her clear, sweet voice.
Here, in the summer-house." And her little
THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
pupil came bounding across the lawn, breath-
less and excited, holding a telegram in her
hand. For you," she said, earnestly, ''and
the boy didn't stop, as there was *no answer,'"
and then with the native instinct of the true
lady, Daisy turned and walked some little
distance away, to leave her governess to herself.
Had she been a few steps nearer, and had
not her little mind been occupied while watching
two sparrows nest-building — eager for the same
twig, quarrelling over it with all the force and
fury of rival claimants — she would have heard
a moan likely to have struck terror into her
With a face from which every particle of
colour had fled, and lips which trembled with
emotion, held under control with greatest dififi-
culty, Gertrude Hastings read and re-read the
telegram which she held in her hand. Well
might the messenger who had brought it say
there was no answer."
The words admitted no doubt ; they were
almost brutal in their directness. They were
these — Your mother died a painless death this
morning, passing away in her sleep. This
announcement is sent instead of a letter. Do
not think of coming. Servants instructed not
to admit you. — Your Father."
When some weeks before Gertrude had been
dismissed from the Rectory, after a very painful
interview, to well consider and give her final
answer as to her willingness to break off her
engagement with Aubrey Rice, she had been
allowed three days in which to decide between
her home and her lover.
That decision had gone in a letter full of
courteous speech and rounded sentences, so
eager had the writer been to say her say with
all tenderness and consideration for her parents'
feelings ; but, though gently put, her answer
was most emphatic.
Her choice had been made too long ago to
make any change possible. She had become
engaged to Aubrey Rice because she loved him ;
and if she loved him then, how much more so
to-day ! His special calling at the time had
not been in any sense a matter influencing her
affections, which had been openly and honestly
won, and with her father's and mother's full
sanction. Neither could the fact that her lover
had ceased to be an insurance clerk and become
instead a draper's assistant tend to influence
her love to-day. It was to the man she was
betrothed — to an honourable and upright gentle-
man — not to his position in any way."
To this letter her father had made curt reply.
"You have made your choice; you have now
to abide by it."
But her mother s letter had been full of tender-
ness. "It will all come right some day," she had
i6o THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
written. Do not be unduly distressed about
your dear father's hardness. He has been so
accustomed to enforce obedience that he resents
most bitterly any opposition to his will. But,
my dear child, according to my judgment, you
are acting as only an honourable woman could
act. I see things more clearly to-day than I did
once, and I could thank God in this hour of
trial that you are found faithful."
This letter had brought a rush of love for the
usually silent mother to Gertrude's heart, and she
had written warmly and gratefully, to receive a
pencilled line a few days later. " Do not write
again just yet ; your father still angry. It must
come right in time. Meanwhile, you have your
mother s love and fullest sympathy. Tell Aubrey
And now the telegram, which required *'no
answer," told Gertrude she was bereft of that
mother. . . .
After a few minutes Daisy returned to the
summer-house to find Miss Hastings weep-
ing. Quite awed by the sight of grief so
terribly severe, the child was quick to fetch her
mother, and then it was that Gertrude first
realised the depth of that good little woman's
''My dear Miss Hastings," she said, as she
put her arm around the weeping girl, let me
be all I can to you. I am neither clever nor
strong-minded, but I have some very genuine
love in my heart, and until your own home is
restored to you, I hope you will consider ours
as yours. I am sure my Vicar will endorse
every word I am saying."
And thus it happened that Gertrude Hastings
found, as others have so often done, that even
sorrows have their compensations. Her father's
anger had created the possibilities of friendship
which, but for some shock to awaken, might
have slumbered on unrecognised.
In the days which followed, as she saw more
of the force and beauty of the character which
had always impressed her, but for which now
she had the deepest admiration, she wondered
how much of its point and power might be
directly traced to the discipline of everyday
struggle with poverty. She remembered when
visiting a Staffordshire pottery on one occasion
to have seen the ware waiting for the finishing
touches of a skilled hand, whose work it was to
paint upon this receptive material floral decora-
tion of delicate tint and colour. How can you
insure the colour lasting ? " had been the not
unnatural question. And the answer was in
itself a volume of suggestion. It's burnt in ;
baked until there is no moving it ! "
''Ah," thought Gertrude in those days, as she
watched good little Mrs. Brownlow with eyes
which saw points before unobserved, *' surely
1 62 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
such characters are made beautiful with God's
own colouring, burnt in in the fires of affliction
The spring had long given place to summer,,
and autumn had come within sight, when one
morning Mrs. Brownlow came to Gertrude
with a troubled face.
Oh, Miss Hastings," she exclaimed, sitting
down beside her and taking her hand in hers,
I must tell you our news. The Vicar has
met with an old colonial friend in town who
urges his acceptance of that private chaplaincy
in Melbourne, recently offered to him but at
once declined. You will remember we told you
something about it at the time, and he has
actually insisted upon paying all our debts here
for us to make our going possible."
'' But why look troubled over such good
news ? " said Gertrude in surprise ; to her own
heart the very mention of paid debts brought a
feeling of relief on behalf of her friend.
" Because— because it would mean our
parting with you, dear," said little Mrs.
Brownlow, and genuine tears came into her
eyes as she spoke. Then she added in a
lowered voice, " Of course, you would not
wish to leave England, with your marriage
taking place next year, and, if we go, it must
be at once — as soon as the Bishop will sanction
our moving. I am wondering if your wedding
could take place from Edgcombe Manor
No, no, not from there ! " said Gertrude,
with flushed cheek. I must not go to the
Manor House while my father remains so bitter
against me. Dear Aunt Matilda quite under-
stands, and thinks as I do about it. But do
not let my plans cloud the brightness of yours,"
she added. I am indeed glad that the Vicar
and yourself are likely to have less hard times in
the future than in the past," and she stooped
down and kissed Mrs. Brownlow affectionately.
And this explains how it happened that
Gertrudes marriage was arranged for that
autumn, instead, as had been previously planned,
sometime during the following spring.
It was a very quiet wedding, the two little
girls acting as bridesmaids — some small con-
solation in their genuine sorrow in parting with
their beloved Miss Hastings — Mr. and Mrs.
Butler- Edgcombe the only guests besides Guy
Manville, who acted as "best man."
"And you have not regretted your change of
business," the Squire had said to Aubrey Rice
as they strolled down the Vicarage garden,
while "the bride" was attiring herself for her
marriage, and Guy Manville was talking with
" Only as it has affected Gertrude," was the
quick reply. "Her father s displeasure has
seemed to me most unjust ; and had I antici-
pated it to have lasted as it has done, I
164 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
certainly should, for her sake, have hesitated to
incur it. It is difficult for me, with my Quaker
ancestry, and all that that means by way of
ennobling business life of every kind and
degree, to find excuse for the unreasonable
prejudice against trade as the calling of a
gentleman which exists in the Rector's mind.
It seems to belittle the character of any honest
mind to seriously entertain objection to an
honourable calling because it is associated with
a shop front instead of an office on the third
**You are right, sir," said Mr. Butler-
Edgcombe, emphatically; I feel entirely with
you on the matter. For myself, I make every
allowance for the Rector's personal antipathy to
our marriage, but a little thing has come to our
knowledge of late over which my wife and I
have had many a quiet laugh. We are keeping
it to ourselves, but I suppose it will have to
come out one day. It is this, that I, once the
page-boy of Edgcombe Manor and later the
butler, proud of my yeoman ancestry in spite of
the anger provoked when the butler became the
master, discovered in tracing out my own
ancestral tree — for I was curious to know if my
folks had ever been other than farmers — that
two centuries back a Farmer Butler married an
Edgcombe, the third daughter and seventh
child of a family of ten, from whom I date my
NO ANSWER "
actual descent. So you see, it, absurdly enough,
turns out " — and the Squire rubbed his hands
gleefully — I have had the honour, although
ignorant of the fact at the time, of marrying a
very distant cousin of my own ! "
" And you have actually made this discovery
and kept it to yourself?" said Aubrey, with
" Certainly," was the reply. It might or it
might not make any difference to those who
have been good enough to stand out against
our marriage, but at least it gives me some-
thing to say, when the right time comes, about
the Edgcombe blood flowing in my poor
I am afraid, had I been in your place.
Squire," said Aubrey, warmly, I should have
lost no time in bringing this fact before those
whom it might influence."
"Perhaps," was the reply, **it would humble
my pride too much if I did this. You see,"
the Squire added, plucking a laurel leaf from a
bush they were passing and rubbing it gently
between his hands, "my views of life are in no
way changed by the discovery. I rather expect
that you feel as I do in these matters, Mr.
Rice," and Mr. Butler- Edgcombe stood still
and repeated in solemn and impressive tones
the words —
"The rank is but the guinea stamp.
The man's the man for a' that."
1 66 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
At this moment little Daisy came tripping
out into the garden in her pretty white brides-
maid's dress — cashmere, trimmed with rows of
baby-satin ribbon — and shyly approaching
Aubrey, said, Will you please come and see
The Squire joined the Vicar and Guy Man-
ville as Aubrey, feeling very solemn and — must
it be admitted ? — a little nervous, hastened with
all speed to the drawing-room.
This was his first meeting with Gertrude
since his last visit, about a week previously.
He had asked for her on his arrival, an hour
ago, but only to be told she had not left her
room ; and it had suddenly dawned upon him
that bridegroom and bride were not supposed
to meet on their wedding-day until at the
marriage service the one awaited the other
at the church. Hence partly his apparent
nervousness when sent for to the drawing-
room. Gertrude was struck by it.
Are you quite well ? " she asked, anxiously,
after the first greeting was over and Aubrey had
praised her pretty toilette, as any other bride-
groom might have done his bride's.
Quite, dearest," he said, as he stooped and
kissed her, **but," he added, am badly want-
ing to get away for a holiday. Oh, what a
restful time we will have, darling. I was
thinking this morning how glad I was we
were going to Ventnor. I can quite sniff
sea breezes in the mere mention of the place.
I think I have found business a little trying
the last week or so. The senior partner has
had some very special worry, I am afraid,
and — but there is no need to talk about it just
now. I had forgotten this is not one of my
ordinary visits, with the limited opportunity of a
quiet little talk together. Gertrude, in less than
an hour you will be mine, darling — mine for
ever ! What do you say to that ? "
Gertrude had no words, but her steady gaze
of beaming happiness into Aubrey's eyes said
all he wanted to know. Her thought perhaps
at that moment was one of intense joy in realis-
ing that the hour had arrived when she would
be no more homeless, but protected and cared
for by one upon whose love and tender dealing
she would have some claim.
Gertrude never knew until her father thrust
her so cruelly from her home how much it had
been to her. With friends who had been quick
to offer her hospitality — the Manor House
people and the good Vicar and his wife more
especially— -she knew her position was not
hopeless isolation, but she had missed the spot
to which she had a claim by right of heritage,
as one misses the existence of the actual home
when circumstances have made it necessary to
store the furniture and travel for a while.
1 68 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
No wonder then that the thought of her
marriage meant to her the restored joys of a
home she could call her own.
She looked very charming in her bridal dress,
a soft tinted brown merino with velvet trim-
mings of darker shade. The scarlet poppies
and wheat ears, a millinery decoration very
much in vogue at the time, suited well the
colouring of her hair and complexion, brighten-
ing the general effect of her appearance, while
giving a pleasing finish to the soft velvet toque
which rested so gracefully upon her well-shaped
A few tender kisses upon the blushing face
turned up to meet his caress, and Aubrey said,
with his arms still encircling Gertrude's slim
figure, My darling, I cannot tell you how
I grieve to think this day should be shadowed
for you by your father's displeasure and absence
from our wedding. Are you afraid to begin life
with me, thus clouded and chilled ?"
No, Aubrey," said Gertrude, looking up
frankly into his face. I cannot say I do not
grieve over my poor father's injustice to us
both, because I do ; but I am yours so fully in
heart that I feel difficulties and trials can only
make us more completely one ; and, with God's
blessing, what have we to fear ? "
I do thank you for so willingly falling into
my little plan of calling to see my mother to-day
before we start for our wedding tour," said
Aubrey a moment or two later. Besides the
thought of giving her pleasure, I have the secret
hope that she may have one of those clearer
moments (which she has had now and again
lately, when the mind seems for a brief interval
to regain its lost balance) and understand that
you, whom she persists in talking to Sarah about
as ' the pretty lady,' is her boy Aubrey s wife.
If only she could once recognise this fact, it
would make everything so much happier ! "
''If she does not understand to-day, she
might later," said Gertrude, eager to leave
Aubrey all his bright hopes in the matter, yet
with a mental reservation for any possible
disappointment. Then she added shyly,
blushing rosy red, ''I do not forget I am
privileged from to-day to take your poor invalid
under my charge as a daughter would do a
mother. It will be a real joy to me to bear
your burden with you."
There was no time for more. With a gentle
knock at the door, Mrs. Brownlow at this
moment came into the room, the two little
bridesmaids following, and within a few
minutes, Aubrey and his best man " had
repaired to the church.
THE FIRST caller" AFTER THE WEDDING
The 5.30 p.m. express from the North had just
gone. The few passengers who had arrived by-
it had left the platform with their luggage, as at
least ten minutes had elapsed between arrival
and departure. Only one remained, but she
could not be reckoned amongst the passengers ;
she had her special right to be recognised as
one of the railway staff, if daily presence at the
station for the last seven or eight years and
attention to all trains coming in upon that plat-
form could constitute her such.
Aubrey's mother looked older than when we
saw her last. Her sweet faded face had lines
about the mouth and eyes which were sugges-
tive of added years, and her movements were
slower ; she was growing weary of the daily
tramp to meet the train by which the expected
son never arrived.
Harold has missed his train," she was saying
to herself, ''but he will come to-morrow!"
when suddenly she paused and stared hard at a
gentleman who at that moment came towards
her on the platform down which she was walking.
THE FIRST "caller" AFTER THE WEDDING 171
He was a well-built young man of about five-
and-twenty, tall and dark. His face wore an
anxious, almost fretful expression. He was
walking very slowly, as if in deep thought, his
€yes on the ground. He appeared not to notice
the old lady at first, who was eyeing him with
rapt, almost painful attention. When he did, it
was to evince annoyance at being so closely
scrutinised, and to turn round sharply and walk
back the way he had come.
A porter chanced to pass at the moment.
To him Mrs. Rice went up quickly, saying
excitedly, Yes, it's the same, and he had no
right there ; tell him so. He is not to come,
I say, and write at my son's table."
The porter was gazing at the speaker with
an amused but not unkind expression. For
once the old lady had varied her conversation.
Apparently a new thought had taken possession
of her mind. Almost as he thought this,
Aubrey's mother lost the light which had come
into her eyes while speaking, and looked dazed
and uncomfortable. The next moment and she
was babbling her childish prattle : Harold
had not come, he had missed his train ; but
to-morrow, yes, to-morrow, he would be here."
" Who is that strange, little woman? " asked
the gentleman who had attracted so much of
her attention as she passed him muttering to
herself He addressed the porter.
172 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
''A Mrs. Rice; comes here every day.
Got a bit brain-turned over a son's death some
years ago ; meets all the trains — "
But the man to ask the question had passed
on, either not interested enough to hear the
answer through, or suddenly thinking of some-
thing which demanded his whole attention.
Well, I'm blue if I'll go out of my way to
oblige ye again," said the porter, looking
angrily after his retreating figure. Easy
enough to tell you're no gentleman. Your folks
couldn't afford to pay for manners where you
went to school, so you're just forced to shift
through life without none ; more's the pity,
for, take you on the whole, you're not a bad-
looking chap." And upon this the porter went
on to do some lamp-cleaning, for which purpose
he had originally made his way to the special
Meanwhile, Aubrey Rice's mother took her
way homewards. The autumnal evening was
a little chilly and she drew her shawl round her
as she walked slowly down the road which led
from the station to her house.
"It's a pity he missed his train," she was
saying to herself. Harold's a nice boy, and
very fond of young Lord Horrick." As she
reached her litde home, Aubrey, who had been
watching for her at the window (he had
purposely not sought her at the station, fearing
THE FIRST CALLER " AFTER THE WEDDING I 73
the risk of a scene when bringing Gertrude to
her notice), came out before she had made any
attempt to open the door.
" Come in, my sweet mother, and welcome my
wife to her new home," he said, watching with
anxiety the effect of his words upon the dulled
and enfeebled brain.
The word *'wife" had made some impression.
Mrs. Rice looked up as if startled. Eh ? " she
said, putting her head on one side as if in an
attitude of listening. This effort to question
was a hopeful sign. It was only quite recently
that she had shown interest in anything which
might be said to her.
Come and see my wife," Aubrey replied,
taking the old lady by both hands and gently
helping her into the house.
Wife ! wife ! " she repeated softly to herself,
as if the word held a memory, and the memory
was struggling for a place in the poor tired
Then Gertrude appeared, blushing and smil-
ing, and straightway greeted her mother-in-law
with a kiss. And Mrs. Rice had looked her up
and down, and now, with hands released from
Aubrey's hold, had gently stroked her clothing.
Then her dulled eyes had brightened, a look of
something akin to intelligence had swept over
the faded face, and her lips had framed the two
emphatic words, " Aubrey s wife ! "
174 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
And then the old lady took Gertrude by the
hand and led her into the little sitting-room
and sought to remove her hat, the best welcome
she could possibly have given to her new
Sarah was called and tea brought in, and
Gertrude was placed by her husband in the
chair by the teacups, the seat so long vacated
by his mother ; and Mrs. Rice submitted herself
to be put by her son's side at the other end of
the table. But beyond this Aubrey could not
win his mother. She quickly subsided into her
self-absorbed mood and talked of her boy who
had missed his train, and of "young Lord
Horrick/' his friend.
But Aubrey felt there was much cause for
thankfulness, if only to see Gertrude presiding
at the tea-tray and his mother raising no objec-
tion. He chatted cheerfully during the meal»
in his heart a great joy. Gertrude was his own
property and possession. Late in the evening,
when he had seen his mother to her room, they
would return to town to be ready to take an
early train in the morning to the Isle of Wight.
It was Aubrey s intention, his wife urging the
idea upon him, to shorten their originally
planned absence from home, so that some
portion of the short holiday might be devoted
to the house and the mother.
It will give me time to learn how I can be
THE FIRST ''caller" AFTER THE WEDDING 1 75
of use to her before you are really away all
day at business," Gertrude had pleaded. " I
do want to be helpful to her, but my very
anxiety might lead to my overdoing it without
you somewhere about, Aubrey ! "
They had finished tea, and were just rising
from the table when there came a ring at the
" Your first caller, Gertrude," Aubrey said,
with a laugh. Shall we say, * not at home ' ?
I think we might be forgiven on this occasion ;
don't you ? "
Before there was time for any reply, their
attention was called to Sarah, who was in angry
remonstrance at the door with the supposed
visitor or visitors. Aubrey left the sitting-
room quickly, closing the door behind him.
Sarah turned upon him a very flushed and
" This police officer says he has come on
business, sir," she said, hotly, and I told him
you couldn't be seen. This was your wedding
day, and you had only looked in to see your
dear mamma was all right ; and you were
going off by train, and I refused to tell you,
sir, and this rude fellow is insisting."
*'Come this way, please," said Aubrey, and
he opened the door of the small drawing-room,
and bowed in one of the two police officers ; the
second waited outside the door, saying simply,
176 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
''After you, sir, please." And Aubrey passed
into the room, never dreaming that there was
something beyond politeness in the action of
the man who followed him.
It was the last to enter who was the chief
spokesman upon what proved to Aubrey a
startlingly painful interview.
It is my duty to arrest you, Mr. Aubrey
Rice," said the one referred to, ''on a charge
of forgery," and he forthwith produced the
warrant and read it to the amazed master of
the house with cruel punctiliousness, adding,
"and the quieter you go the better, sir. There
is a cab waiting for you a little further down
"It is utterly impossible! There is a
mistake somewhere ! " gasped Aubrey. " You
cannot mean you are actually taking me away
— in charge ? "
" I fear there is no other course open to us,
sir," said the Inspector not unsympathetically.
The terror-struck face of his prisoner as he
grasped the state of affairs must have moved
even the hardest heart.
" Well, let me just go and account for my
departure to my wife and poor invalid mother,"
Aubrey said, trying to speak carelessly, but his
voice seemed hollow and weak.
" You can go where you like, sir, under my
escort," said the Inspector, taking some certain
THE FIRST " CALLER " AFTER THE WEDDING 1 77
Steel implements from his pocket and proceed-
ing to adjust them to Aubrey's wrists with the
dexterity of long practice.
Like one in a dream he submitted to the
ignominy. Then he asked the Inspector to call
the servant, who would doubtless be waiting
outside the door. Sarah came in trembling and
agitated, her eyes red with weeping. Some-
thing one of the officers had let fall in insisting
upon seeing her master had more than sug-
gested trouble ; there were words to the effect
that he would have to ''postpone his wedding
festivities for a bit."
I want you to call my wife out of the room,
Sarah," Aubrey said, and now he spoke with
calm collectedness, and his voice sounded less
strained than before, ''and tell her as quietly as
you can that there is some dreadful mistake in
this business." He glanced down pathetically
at his handcuffs and his lip trembled. How
could even the strongest man pass through this
humiliating experience with feelings unmoved ?
*' When you have explained this to her she
had better, if she does not mind, come in here
for a moment. I suppose there will be no
objection to that, Inspector?"
" Certainly not, sir ; make what plans you
like. So long as I am here you can take your
Sarah was by this time weeping bitterly.
178 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
She had uttered a cry of anguish as Aubreys
unconsciously drew her attention to his hand-
cuffs, subsiding on to the nearest chair and
bursting into tears.
Oh, my poor master ! What can it all
mean ? " she wailed, and Aubrey said somewhat
sternly, "It is only an unfortunate mistake,
Sarah ; it will be cleared up in no time. Don't
make such a fuss about it, as if I had actually
been doing something wrong. You must take
care of my wife and mother while I am away ;
it can only be for a day or two I hope, at the
longest." He glanced at the Inspector as he
spoke, but that good man suddenly looked
away as if not wishing to be questioned toa
Meanwhile the door of the room in which
they stood, which had only been drawn to when
Sarah entered, was pushed open and Gertrude
made her appearance. Coming out in search
of Sarah (Mrs. Rice getting restless and
fidgetty) to ask what should be done, and not
finding her in the kitchen, she was on her way
upstairs when she heard her cry of anguish.
The next moment and she had entered the
drawing-room, thinking Sarah was in trouble
and needing her help.
It is impossible to describe the expression
which came into Gertrude's face when she saw
her husband standing between the constables,.
THE FIRST caller" AFTER THE WEDDING 1 79
handcuffed. It was one of surprise and indigna-
tion, and into this there seemed to gather the
tenderest pity for him, her noble Aubrey.
Gertrude," said her husband, hesitating to
call her by a more endearing term before
others, **by some unfortunate mistake, yet to
be explained, I am taken up on the charge of
forging cheques. The Firm have been enquir-
ing into the matter for the last few days. The
senior partner had hinted to me his great
anxiety. Now they have obtained a warrant
out against me ! I can only think a few hours
and I shall be sent back home again with an
apology for the blunder ; but meanwhile —
meanwhile, Gertrude, take care of my poor
mother, who will, of course, know nothing of
this ; and of yourself" (the last words were
added in lowered tones). And now, Inspector,
I am ready ! "
Gertrude darted a wistful look of love and
pity straight into her husband's eyes, the
voiceless message from an anguished soul ; but
she never lost the control of her feelings.
Unconsciously for one brief moment, quite
forgetful of the eyes which watched her, she
pressed her cheek to his shoulder as she said
firmly, but in lower tones, "You may depend
upon me for — for everyt,hing, Aubrey." '
" God bless you ! " her husband whispered,
but evidently could not trust himself to say
l8o THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
more. Then Sarah, with a wail, throwing her
apron over her head, ran out into the kitchen,
while Gertrude walked beside her husband to
the door, and smiled upon him as he turned at
the gate to look at her. The cab had come up,
a four-wheeler, and Aubrey got in first, the two
men following. In a moment it had driven
away. And Gertrude closed the door noiselessly
and re-entered the drawing-room, where she
sank upon her knees by the couch, stifling a
low, anguished cry as she buried her face in a
soft downy cushion. For ten minutes she re-
mained thus, then rose to her feet and went
into the sitting-room, to find the aged mother
fast asleep in her arm-chair. Leaving her there
she passed on into the kitchen. Sarah was in
a rocking-chair, swaying herself backwards and
forwards with an oft-repeated Oh dear ! oh
dear ! oh dear ! "
Hush, control yourself, Sarah," Gertrude
said earnestly. *'We must not let Mrs. Rice
know anything about this trouble. It will be
all made right to-morrow. I see quite well
what has happened ; some evil-disposed person
has been plotting against Mr. Rice. But he
will be quite able to explain when the time
"But, oh dear! oh dear!" began Sarah
again, bursting into a fresh flow of tears, "I'll
never get over it, never. You don't love the
THE FIRST ''caller" AFTER THE WEDDING l8l
young master as I do, or you would never take
it so quietly. I nursed him when he was a
baby, and I have watched him all my life, and
there never was a nicer or more upright lad.
He couldn't tell a lie if he tried ; nor could he
do an underhand or deceitful trick — no, not if
saving his life depended upon it. I tell you,
young lady, it's an awful calamity, coming and
fetching him off in this style. If you had seen
him grow up, first a wee babe, and then a
little fellow in knickers, and then a fine young
man who always spoke civil to everybody, you
would feel the disgrace as I do."
" Perhaps I am trying no^ to let you know all
I feel," said Gertrude, and she spoke with
gentle dignity; ''but a wife's love must be
something different from everything else, be-
cause you see it has such a lot of hope in it.
Now, I hope when to-morrow comes to see my
dear husband back again, explaining to us the
mystery of all this happening, and if I had to
say to him then ' I never left off crying after
you went until you came back, and I had to
neglect your mother to find time to indulge my
grief,' don't you think it would be a pity,
now ? "
"Neglect the poor missis? Never! Mrs.
Rice, junior, as I suppose you'll have to be
called, miss." And as if her own remark had
ushered in a new thought, Sarah suddenly
1 82 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
sprang up, and, wiping away her tears and
straightening her cap and apron, she passed
through the kitchen door into the sitting-room,
and closed the door behind her.
And Gertrude waited to see what would
happen next. She was feeling sick and giddy
with the shock, but she schooled herself to
silent endurance. The thing was too pre-
posterous to be made into a trouble. Aubrey
commit a forgery ? For what motive ? Aubrey
was not poor ; he had no expensive tastes ; no
debts — he hated debt, he had often told her ;
of course, something had happened to account
for the blunder, but it would be explained away
on the morrow. Aubrey would be taken into
court, and the magistrate would only need to
look at him to see he was innocent of whatever
charge they made. Then he would give just
the explanation wanted to trace the real culprit,
and get for himself overwhelming apologies.
Later, when Sarah had put her mistress to
bed, she returned to the kitchen to find Mrs.
Aubrey Rice with very pale cheeks and red
The immediate need for self-control had
passed, and Gertrude had been indulging in
the luxury of a good cry. The contrast
between the young lady left in the kitchen
half an hour ago and the one found there
upon Sarah's return was quite enough to
THE FIRST CALLER " AFTER THE WEDDING 1 83
appeal from that good woman's censure to pity.
Forgetting everything but the cruelly start-
ling way in which the young wife had been
robbed of her husband, old Sarah became
suddenly very humble.
Poor young lady ! " she said, with deep
sympathy in her voice, and Gertrude's tears
began to flow afresh, " I ask your pardon
for my rough words a while ago. It was only
an old woman's rubbish. Of course you love
my poor young master a deal better nor I,
that's why you didn't let him see your grief,
while I was an old fool and hollo'd like
anything!" And with this for amends, old
Sarah felt to have made her peace with her
young masters bride. And Gertrude's bitter
desolation and loneliness were some degrees
less for the old servant's improved demeanour.
''AND IT WAS night"
Poor Gertrude Rice was so ill the day follow-
ing the events narrated in the last chapter that
by noon she had to give in and return to bed.
" I shall be all right in a few hours, Sarah,"
she had said, trying to speak cheerfully. I am
usually so very strong, but yesterday was per-
haps too much for me."
However, by night she became delirious, and
Sarah, in great trouble, having no one to confer
with, took it upon herself to send for the doctor,
who came every few weeks to see Mrs. Rice.
''Well, Sarah, mistress ill again?" said Dr.
Seymour, as he came obedient to her summons.
"Well, yes, sir, it is my mistress, only it
happens to be vsiy young one. I've Mr. Aubrey's
wife staying here while he is away from home
on important business for a couple of days or so,
and she seems so queer in her head this evening
I can't make anything of her."
" Indeed!" said the doctor, with that habitual
reticence which characterises the medical pro-
fession on its way from the house door to the
sick room. "Well, take me to her," he added,
*' AND IT WAS NIGHT "
and he mounted the staircase, waiting on the
landing for Sarah, who had to take her time in
That young lady," he said, ten minutes
later as he left the sick room with the old
servant, is suffering from a severe nervous
shock. She is seriously ill, and her husband
should be communicated with. If you will give
me his address I will write to him ! "
Sarah pressed her lips tightly together,
mentally vowing that no power on earth should
draw her secret from her. The old lady," she
argued to herself, knew nothing, so the doctor
could gather nothing from /^er, and as * Mrs.
Rice, junior,' had not spoken a word, no informa-
tion of any kind had come up to the present to
Dr. Seymour's knowledge, and s/^e was not
going to be the first to give it ! "
He was to have gone to the Isle of Wight
to-day, but I think when he left the house last
night he had changed his plans," Sarah observed,
after a visible pause.
**At what time did he leave?" said the
doctor, thinking this might give some clue to the
distance he was likely to be travelling that
I think it was getting on for nine when the
cab went from the door," said old Sarah, and
she turned very red and seemed agitated.
Convinced that there was something more to
1 86 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
tell him if he could only get Sarah to trust him
with her confidence, the doctor lingered for a
few moments longer than he would have done,
but the old servant was most obdurate, and he
gave it up at last, never doubting that her
silence was in some way associated with her
loyalty to her master, and therefore suggesting
that the withheld information was not alto-
gether to his credit.
His newspaper next morning put him in
possession of more direct information than Sarah
could have given, had she willed to do so.
Under the heading, Painful Forgery Case," he
read a full account of Aubrey Rice s supposed
criminal action, the evidence against him being
painfully conclusive. He was committed for
trial — bail not being allowed. The newspaper,
with a touch of the melodramatic, alluded to
the prisoner having been taken up on his
wedding day, and ventured the somewhat ill-
timed remark that ''few could boast on such
auspicious occasions, amongst other useful and
ornamental gifts, being presented with a warrant
Dr. Seymour did not make the slightest
allusion to the information he had gathered
from his morning paper when visiting his
patient later in the day.
"As it is likely to be a somewhat serious
illness, I am going to send a trained nurse in
**AND IT WAS night"
to Mrs. Aubrey Rice," he said, on taking his
departure. **You will arrange, please, that
she has twelve hours off duty for every twelve
hours on, comfortable meals, and the chance to
get out daily. Talk your plans over with her,
and she will I am sure do her best to meet you.
It will be necessary for you to be within reach
of the patient when nurse is not in the house."
Then with a quiet Good day," the doctor
had departed, wondering why it was so fre-
quently deplored by those studying the question
'*that servants of the old class, loyal to the
family interests and quite capable of keeping a
secret, were nowadays nowhere to be found " ?
It was three weeks before Gertrude started
to make any satisfactory progress in her illness,
six before she was sufficiently convalescent to
spare her nurse, by which time Aubrey
Rice had pleaded ''Not guilty" to the charge
of forgery preferred against him by the firm of
Catchpool Brothers; but a special jury had de-
cided otherwise, and a judge whose reputation
was that of severity in dealing with criminals
of the cultured classes had passed upon him a
sentence which sent a shudder through the
court, which for the most part was in sympathy
with the aristocratic prisolier at the bar —
Seven years' penal servitude."
It would be impossible to give all the data of
circumstances and events upon which the charge
1 88 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
was built up without going into details con-
cerning the business plans and operations of
Catchpool Brothers which would be wearisome
to follow and painful to analyse, inasmuch as
seen from the point of view pressed by the
counsel for the prosecution, they presented cruel
finger-signs all moving in one direction, and
that, the bringing home to Aubrey Rice the
guilt of which he was accused.
Mr. Everet- Arnold, the senior partner of the
firm had given his evidence with ** grave
reluctance, seeing the prisoner was the nominee
of the late junior partner (a great personal
friend of his own) for a position on the firm
staff, after three years' training in a business
altogether new to him ; but, to be honest, from
the first he had had his doubts as to the
genuine straightforward dealing of the prisoner,
and upon his attention being directed to certain
little matters connected with his total inaptitude
for business, he had lost considerable confidence
in him and quite naturally kept his eyes open "
— and so forth.
Mr. Joseph Buncer, buyer in the employment
of the firm, had been called to prove the
prisoner's strange conduct on a certain occasion
in reference to a lost latch-key. It was evidently
the prisoners intention to gather material^
should it be required for use on a future occa-
sion, whereby to prove that on a certain date he
AND IT WAS NIGHT "
was actually at his own home, unable to enter
in the ordinary way because of the absence
from his pocket of a latch-key, whereas the pro-
babilities, as suggested by the case before them,
were that he was miles away (it being early
closing day) getting the cheque cashed at the
Firm's West-end bankers, just before their
A cashier from the said bankers next gave
evidence to the effect that Catchpool Brothers
were in the habit of issuing cheques for more
or less large sums, made payable to the Firm's
order, it being well known that this was the
Firm's method of paying salaries, the initial *'S"
below the Firm's signature indicating for what
purpose the cheque had been drawn. Two
cheques of this description had been placed to
the Firm's debit account between September the
22nd and the 30th. In the rush of work at the
counter it was impossible for the cashier to say
by whom these cheques had been presented.
• Nor would he swear that in each case it was the
same individual, but as far as his memory
would serve him it was, if not the prisoner
himself, some one very much like him. He
perfectly well remembered that on each occasion
these cheques were presented just before closing
time, a fact which called forth no special atten-
tion, it being the usual custom to come at that
I go THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
Cross-examined : No, it had not struck him
in regard to the first cheque presented that it
was the Firm's early closing day."
Further cross-examined : " No, the sum of
these *S' initialed cheques was never a uniform
one ; it varied with the number of cheques
issued from month to month."
As one in a dream Aubrey had listened to
his defamers, almost losing now and again all
trace of his own identity. Again and again he
was reminded of the coloured glass through
which, as a school-boy, he had made everything
appear to the sight of one hue. The witnesses
on the side of the prosecution believed him
guilty of the crime of which he was accused,
and all the little nothings pertaining to his life
and conduct were coloured with a distinctive
When Stanley Pritchard entered the witness-
box Aubrey Rice knew instinctively that
whatever had gone before would be mild as
compared with what had now to come in the
evidence against him. Stanley had started by
suggesting it was impossible in the interests of
the Firm to remain silent, otherwise nothing in
the world would have led him to give evidence
against a man who had always been upon
most friendly terms with him.
Then had come with suitable hesitation, as it
meant a personal confession, a description of
**AND IT WAS night" I9I
his visit to Mr. Rice last August bank holiday.
''He had gone to ask the loan of ten pounds,
being in a little need himself, and always
regarding Mr. Rice as a young man of mone-
tary standing. He had found him alone in the
house with an invalid mother, who was confined
to her bed. He had been asked up to the
room which the prisoner called his' *den,'
where he had evidently been busy writing at
the moment of his arrival, for on returning to
the room he had hastily closed a writing case
upon the table against which his chair had
''In asking for the loan the prisoner had
explained he was not well off, and was really
in sore need of money himself, as he was
anxious to get married the following year.
But upon pressure the loan was granted, and
an I O U was written for it. And it was while
writing this that Mr. Rice — he should say the
prisoner — had gone hurriedly into his mother's
room, summoned thither by a knock on the
" During his temporary absence, the I O U
made out, it was only natural to glance at the
very pretty writing case— the one produced in
court — which at the moment greatly took his
(the witness') fancy. The watered silk which
lined the wooden case he much admired, and
thought it a pity that in closing the case over
192 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
an open letter some traces of ink had been left
upon this silk. It was when looking at these
marks, with regret that anything so chaste
should be impaired, that he noticed the forma-
tion of the strokes (to be seen to-day), and,
examining more closely, distinctly traced the
broken and imperfect letters of the Firm's
*' The discovery appalled him. He closed the
case as if he had himself been a culprit, and was
standing at the window when the prisoner
returned. The secret overburdened him ; he
kept it to himself, regretting now that he did
not at the first apprise the senior partner of his
discovery, and so save the mischief which
followed, for quite six weeks had elapsed before
the passing of the first cheque. The senior
partner, when aware of what had taken place, in
examining his pass-book made up to quarter-
day, had held interviews in his private room
with all in any important position in the business.
It was not until then that, no longer able to
keep his secret, he asked to see Mr. Everet-
Arnold, and disclosed the facts which led to
search being made in the book now before the
court for the marks referred to, and ultimately
to the apprehending of the prisoner."
This closed the evidence for the prosecution.
For the defence Aubrey had not lacked
friends to speak for him. The insurance
"AND IT WAS night"
office in which he had worked for so many-
years sent a representative to speak in the
highest praise of his steadiness and scrupulous
honesty while employed in their Firm. Lord
Horrick had gone into the witness-box to testify
to his uprightness in private life, and had hinted
that his marriage with the daughter of a highly
connected country rector was in itself a testi-
monial. (Unfortunately the whisper went round
the court that the prisoner had long ago been
forbidden the house of his father-in-law, and
the marriage had taken place from the house of
a Brixton clergyman, information which did not
tend to strengthen the prisoner's case, but rather
the contrary.) Others also came forward, each
one in his way anxious to say something kind
of the prisoner, but all in some way explaining,
either in the direct evidence or by cross-
examination, that they had not seen much of
the prisoner since he entered the Firm of Catch-
The judge's summing up was fair, considering
his reputation for severity, but it laid great
emphasis upon the fact rhat it was painfully
evident that the prisoner's character had de-
teriorated somewhat since entering the Firm
of Catchpool Brothers ; the chief partner, to
whose advantage it would have been to have
cultivated more closely the future partner,
acknowledged that time lessened rather than
194 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
increased his confidence in the young man. It
was for the jury to decide, lacking any evidence
of appreciable worth as to the actual use made
of the money come by in this assumably
dishonourable way, whether there was still
sufficient reason to acquit the prisoner on the
charge of forgery? Unfortunately for the
prisoner, experts in handwriting had all agreed
that the letters, repeated as if in the effort to
effect a perfection only made possible by prac-
tice, and the prisoner s own handwriting, and
the signature of the cheques had a similarity
which could not be explained away, etc.
The jury retired for thirty-five minutes, and
on their return, amid breathless silence, the
foreman said, *' We find the prisoner guilty of
forgery, although failing to accept any con-
clusion as to the motive which led to it."
Then the sentence had been pronounced, and
Aubrey was removed from the position he had
occupied for three consecutive days as a criminal
pro tern, to his seven years of darkness and
shame in a felon's cell. And Gertrude had only
the newspapers from which to glean details of
this terrible trial, When sufficiently restored to
be told what had taken place, Dr. Seymour
himself broke the news to her. With great
consideration for his patient's happiness, he had
obtained an interview with the convicted man
on his wife's behalf ; had explained the nature
" AND IT WAS NIGHT "
of her illness, and her progress towards recovery,
assuring Aubrey Rice that he might be perfectly
rested in knowing his wife intended to bear her
sorrow bravely, and devote herself to his mother.
Her intention was, so soon as strong enough, to
seek a morning engagement as governess in the
neighbourhood, thus to be earning something
while free to devote a considerable portion of
each day to Mrs. Rice.
From Aubrey the doctor had brought a
message of tender devotion. "It was for her
he grieved most. The cruelty of the charge,
the pain of those three days in court, the realisa-
tion that he had been deprived of his liberty
and had seven years of prison life to look
forward to, were nothing compared with his
grief for the sorrow brought upon herself. The
more he thought about it all, the more sure he
was there had been a foul conspiracy against
him, and that some day it would be cleared up ;
he went to prison to suffer the penalty of
another's wrongdoing. It was not for him to
say he knew who that other was. Of what
avail would it be? A^i English judge and
jury had found him guilty of a crime he had
never committed. Before his supposed guilt
could be cleared away another must confess to
the crime. Henceforth his hope rested in
another man's conscience being awakened."
Gertrude wept softly as the doctor recounted
196 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
the history of his interview with her husband —
she was still physically weak — then, smiling
through her tears, she had said, If I am not
brave after hearing this, I shall not be doing my
duty as his wife."
And Dr. Seymour regretted at that moment
that his bachelor home could not extend its
hospitality to lady patients. He wished —
perhaps not for the first time in his life — that
he had a wife whose presence in the house,
besides securing to him innumerable benefits
and advantages, would help him to carry out
many a plan which to-day must be labelled
''lawful, but not expedient."
It was Dr. Seymour who eventually secured
Gertrude a position as lady companion, at an
excellent salary. Her hours were from ten to
six, Sundays excepted, and her duties were
*' Better than a nursery governess' place," he
had said, warmly. "You will have a certain
amount of comfort and care here which would
have been impossible with the charge of
But," Gertrude had replied, brightly, re-
membering her dear little pupils at Brixton, I
am happiest with children ; and some day I
should like to get back to the schoolroom
"If that is really your desire," said Dr. Sey-
" AND IT WAS NIGHT "
mour, we will be on the look-out for a suitable
post, and meanwhile I should advise you to
write to Mrs. Brownlow for a testimonial, which
you can have in readiness."
" If it were not for my responsibilities here
in looking after my husband's mother, I know
what I would love to do."
What is that ? " enquired Dr. Seymour. I
like to feel you can still be enthusiastic."
I would go and live within reach of
Aubrey's prison ; it would be such a comfor
to live near him and call myself Mrs., or, better
still, Miss Huntly. My maiden name was
Gertrude Huntly Hastings : it would only be
like claiming to be known by my old name
and not by my new."
Well, it might happen some day, unless the
guilty man makes short work of clearing his
conscience and puts the law, which condemned
your poor husband, in motion again to release
him from prison."
Oh, if only he would ! " said Gertrude, tear-
And the doctor took his leave, sure that
whatever the future held in store by way of
suffering to Aubrey Rice and his wife, the day
would yet dawn in which the young husband s
innocence would be declared.
And when three months later Dr. Seymour
died while visiting a patient, of heart disease.
198 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
Gertrude mourned his loss the more deeply
because he never talked of the future without
flooding- it with the light of hope.
Meanwhile she had devoted herself to
Aubrey's mother. With gentle and persistent
effort she sought to be friends with the poor old
lady so strangely absorbed in her own trouble.
During all those long weeks of illness Mrs.
Rice had never once entered Gertrude s room,
although daily Sarah had tried to explain that
Mr. Aubrey's wife was ill."
But when Gertrude was able to get down-
stairs, and, feeling very weakly, would rest in a
high back chair, the old lady evinced sudden
interest. She would come and sit beside her
and stroke her cheeks and hands, and say
softly, '* Poor wife," in most pathetic tones,
often calling down the too-ready-to-flow tears
of her daughter-in-law.
When Gertrude at length took the situation
as companion, old Mrs. Rice would watch for
her home-coming from the little parlour window
and run to the door to meet her. She had, it
was soon evident, found a new interest in life,
an interest which even led her to forget the
trains which came and went as of yore, and
devote herself to Gertrude.
One day when Gertrude came home from
her pupils she missed the familiar face at the
window, and concluded the old lady had once
"and it was night"
more returned to the meeting of Harold s train.
But it was not so. She found her" crying softly
in Aubrey's room.
"Aubrey meets the trains now," she said, as
Gertrude came up to her and enquired, cheer-
fully, Dear Mrs. Rice, what may I do for
Be good to Aubrey and Harold when they
come in," she said, *'and do thou tell them
their poor old mother got so tired of waiting for
the trains — so tired ; tell Aubrey his poor old
mother was so glad to rest because /ie went to
meet the trains." Over and over again the same
thing ; still, pathetically sad as it was to hear,
there was comfort in the thought that the gentle
old lady had so well accounted for Aubrey's
All this time Gertrude slept in Aubrey's
room and bed, to be at hand should she be
wanted. And one night she distinctly heard
the words, Aubrey, Aubrey! be sure to meet
thy brother till he comes, and bring him home
to me," and hastily passing into her mother-in-
law's room she found her v soundly sleeping, a
smile upon her lips. Twice in the next half-
hour she moved, but each time smiling as if in
happy dreamland. Then of a sudden — so
sudden as to make Gertrude's heart beat — she
started up in bed and, extending her arms
upwards, exclaimed in a tone of triumph,
200 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
Harold s come ! Tell Aubrey, at last I see
him. Oh, how fair he looks ! how sweet he
smiles ! He is not an hour older. My boy,
my precious boy, thou wast worth the waiting
for. Oh, God be thanked for giving a poor
lone widow the desires of her heart ! " And,
so saying, she sank back into her pillows and
once more slept.
In vain Gertrude tried later to rouse her ; for
food she had no appetite, for a return to the
weary life of daily longing, no will. She
craved but to be left alone to sleep. . .
And so the end came, four months and a few
days only after Aubrey's leaving home. . . .
And, as if to add to the desolateness of her
sad life, Gertrude, a few days before any change
had come to Mrs. Rice's health, knew that she
had gazed upon the kind face of Aunt Matilda
for the last time. The Squire had written
briefly to announce the fact — a sudden seizure
while, with the assembled household, they were
in the midst of family prayers, and his faithful
and devoted wife had breathed her last.
Amidst all this overwhelming strain, Gertrude
determined to give up the little house which
could never be a home to her without Aubrey.
Once free from household cares and she could
take a residential position as governess, and
further, she could choose the neighbourhood in
which to live. What was to hinder her settling
" AND IT WAS NIGHT "
down somewhere within sight and reach of
Aubrey's prison ?
Mrs. Brownlow had sent her an excellent
testimonial. In due course all arrangements
were made. The furniture was scarcely of a
kind to store. If it were another seven years
(less only the few months which had already
passed) before Aubrey would be free to enjoy a
home of his own again, the things, already in
some cases moth-eaten, would be practically
worthless. Hence Gertrude had determined to
get rid of them. To old Sarah's charge (who,
now free to plan her own life, had accepted an
invitation to live with a widowed sister) she had
consigned the care of two trunks, filled with
small treasures which had been scattered about
the house, in themselves valueless, but holding,
doubtless, tender home memories which her
husband might wish to preserve.
It is only due to say here that Sarah had
herself urged a sale, saying many times her
young master had said, when speaking of his
marriage as some way ahead, that before he
made his house as he would wish it to be for
his bride he would entirely refurnish, and
Gertrude's plans had been formed accordingly,
her own judgment seeing no wisdom in paying
for storage, which was from all points unde-
The sale had been a great disappointment to
202 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
Gertrude. (When are sales other than disap-
pointing?) Instead of having money to put
away for Aubrey s use, some day, in the Post-
office savings bank, to which she meant to
add by her own earnings, she found that, after
giving Sarah a gift of a few pounds, and
paying a quarter's rent in advance in lieu of
notice, and settling up the many little incidental
expenditures which her own illness had in-
volved, after laying out all her savings of the
past three years, she had only enough left to
give her the necessary equipment for the post of
nursery governess which she had succeeded in
obtaining on a month's probation in a garrison
town in the neighbourhood of which was a
convict prison. As she had planned to do
in Dr. Seymour's lifetime, she had taken the
engagement under the name of "Miss
Huntly." Her charges were the two little sons
of a solicitor (a widower), whose maiden sister
lived with him, and who was, for more reasons
than one, very careful whom she engaged
for the position. Mrs. Brownlow's testimonial
was just the kind she approved, hence " Miss
Huntly 's " acceptance without any further
THE SQUIRE MAKES HIS WILL
The senior partner of the firm of Grant &
Son was seated in his country office busy with
correspondence which would be handed over to
his clerks to deal with, so as to get through with
the signing not later than twelve-thirty, in time
for him to catch the ten-to-one express to
town. The order had been given that no stray
client would be interviewed that day. The
only appointment " had come and gone, and
Mr. Grant had quite as much as he could accom-
plish before he must leave for London, his son
Hugh being too unwell to go to town that
What is it, Drake ? " he asked his confiden-
tial clerk as he entered the room with a look
of apology upon his face. He had no papers
in his hand, and his manner, hesitating to a
degree, was of one who was conscious of acting
contrary to his chiefs wishes.
It's Mr. Butler- Edgcombe, sir. I told him
you were specially engaged, and as he hadn't
made an appointment — "
What does he need to worry me about to-
204 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
day?" said the lawyer, evidently annoyed. I'm
getting on as fast as I can with his work. Still,
it would not do to offend him ; bring him up
and wire to town ' Hold one-thirty appointment
— coming next train.' "
The man who greeted the Squire with a
suave smile and brow without a ruffle was
evidently well practised in the art of controlling
''How do, Squire ? Glad to see you ; a little
pressed for time, but at your service," was the
cordial greeting Mr. Butler- Edgcombe received.
" I had no time to make an appointment/'
said the Squire by way of apology, ''so pray
excuse my coming along without one. I find
Lord Walters means to fight me over this
property question. He is good enough to tell
me, in a letter this morning received, that I am
an upstart and an adventurer, and that no
court of law would acknowledge my claim to
my late wife's estates ; he says further he has
taken advice on the matter, and unless I will
accept his terms of having five hundred a year
settled on me for my life, and withdrawing all
claim to anything beyond, he will see what a
British judge and jury will say to it — with
threats that I need not repeat. No, I have
purposely left the letter at home. It is too
personal, too vulgar in its coarse allusions to
the ladies, my late wife and sister-in-law, to
THE SQUIRE MAKES HIS WILL 205
make me desire that it should be seen even
by my lawyer. I came to you to ask you
to take the matter up and see it through for
Mr. Grant smiled — a smile which means to
a client "judgment deferred." He would com-
mit himself to nothing for the present.
He had in a previous interview heard enough
of the case to be quite sure that it was just one
open for litigation, and he further knew that the
present Squire, while well-informed and business-
like up to a certain point, was strangely deficient
in that special quality of ancestral dignity which
goes far to vindicate a cause already two-thirds
covered by justice. In a word, he was unusually
dependent, hence there was more to be made
under these circumstances than was at all sug-
gested by ordinary ''legal fees." But this was
a matter for discreet handling.
I feel so particularly helpless," said the
Squire. '* I fail to see that Lord Walters can
under the circumstances make good any claim.
Still, as you told me last time, he had a some-
what analogous case to fall back upon to suggest
the possibility of the law supporting him, where
one taking much the position he does gained
his day, you will remember. I see the im-
portance of being prompt and definite, so I
came to you with a proposition."
" Which is ? " said the lawyer, visibly grow-
206 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
ing more cordial, but still speaking with an
evident effort to be guarded. In the previous
interview he had broadly intimated that it
was usual in a case of this sort to guarantee
a certain sum down, over and above legiti-
mate fees, should matters be brought to a
successful issue, but the Squire had not
appeared to take to the idea.
" I propose," said the Squire, clearing his
throat and speaking rapidly, that on the
definite understanding that you secure to me
the property intact I will make you my heir,
less capital equal to ^500 per annum, which I
would leave to relatives needing my help. I
propose settling this ;^500 upon them forthwith,
hence they would simply come into full posses-
sion at my death of the capital to-day invested
on their behalf, while there would be a mental
reservation in the matter of certain legacies to
philanthropic and religious objects of interest,
say to the extent of ^20,000. Beyond this
everything would be yours. You should be — I
am right I think in the term ? — my residuary
''Ton my word. Squire," said the lawyer,
as if suddenly roused to see the value of the
offer made, I think you are most generous,
most considerate ! I shall be delighted to
accept your terms with one proviso, namely,
that if the successful issue of the pending trial
THE SQUIRE MAKES HIS WILL 207
brings this agreement into force, and if I die
before you do, you will make my son your heir."
" I see no objection," said the Squire,
thoughtfully. " Draw up an agreement at
this office, and I will hand the whole business
over to you and go abroad for a few months ;
it won't hurt me to travel, and I shall get out of
the strain of it all. I am a man for peace and
quiet, sir; I hate turmoil of any kind ! " and the
Squire got up from his seat and walked to the
window. He was more moved about the
question than he cared should be seen by the
man he was perforce making his friend.
This put quite a new complexion upon the
Squire's little business, and Mr Grant was in
no hurry to keep the appointment with the
client already awaiting him in his town office.
He went very fully into detail, and there and
then dictated, by the express desire of Mr.
Butler- Edgcombe, a rough draft of a new will
embodying the Squire's wishes about the
disposal of his property after his death.
Finally, when this was read over for approval,
Mr. Butler- Edgcombe was evidently struck by
a thought only at that moment presenting
itself to his mind.
I think there would be no harm in putting
in a third name ; after all, it may only be a
matter of form, but the idea commends itself to
me. Supposing, in the event of your death and
208 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
your son's before mine, Fd like to name my
young friend, Mr. Aubrey Rice, as residuary
legatee. He is, I am sure, a worthy young
man, in spite of a cruel miscarriage of justice
in that forgery trial — of course you read all
about it at the time — last autumn ? Bless my
life, it was an awful blow to my poor wife ;
we had only been to his wedding a few days
before it all came out in the Times. His poor
young wife was, I daresay you will remember.
Miss Gertrude Hastings — badly treated at
home because she stuck to the man she loved
in spite of his going into a business to which
her father objected. Poor girl, she has had a
hard time of it, I know; but she never doubts
her husband's innocence — she put it pretty
plainly in writing to my wife, and telling her all
about it — and neither do I ; so just to prove my
good feeling, if nothing else, we will have him
down in my will. You understand — supposing
you and your son to be dead, the property will
go to him; and supposing, as I suppose I must
in politeness say I hope may be the case, you
are living when I die, he shall come into a
thousand pounds just as a token of my good-
will ? I feel sure you'll not object to this ? "
At that moment there was but small likeli-
hood of any exception being taken to the
Squire's express wishes, so long as the main
point was established, this being the lawyer's
THE SQUIRE MAKES HIS WILL 20g
absolute claim to the property as Mr. Butler-
Edgcombe's direct heir.
The conditions which secured this privilege
did not trouble Mr. Grant. He felt sure, if he
bent all his energies upon the case, it could be
cleared and judgment given in his client's
favour, more especially as during that morn-
ing's conversation the Squire had chanced to
refer to the fact of the relationship, although
obviously obscure, which existed between his
own family and that of his late wife.
The clause concerning Aubrey Rice did not
appear of any special moment to the lawyer.
The fact that in connection with this, the
Squire's fortune, he was only mentioned as a
remote alternative was of certain importance,
but not of undue significance. Mr. Grant,
senior, was a young man for his years (which
were scarcely over fifty), and his son was only
When at length Mr. Butler- Edgcombe took
his departure, the case, which in time became
one of historic fame, had been practically
handed over to the firm of Messrs. Grant &
Son. The will would stand in place of agree-
ment. Should the case be lost, the Squire
would at once revoke the present testamentary
document by making another.
The trial took place in due course, lasting
twenty-eight days, and it brought to light many
2IO THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
interesting family skeletons from cupboards
which had not been opened for years, and
which would have remained closed to this day
but for the vigilant effort of Messrs. Grant &
Son to supply Mr. Butler-Edgcombe's counsel
with materials which would reduce the Edg-
combe family proper to the level of ordinary
Without devoting time to details which
afforded great interest to the newspaper-
reading public and great opportunities to the
legal profession in a hundred and one ways
best known to ''the bench," suffice it to say
that Mr. Butler- Edgcombe won his case, and
Messrs. Grant & Son congratulated themselves
that the part they played in the winning was
in no sense paid for by the handsome cheque
received at the conclusion of the trial " for
services rendered" — a certain document, duly
attested, certifying that in the event of Mr.
Butler-Edgcombe's death during the lifetime
of Mr. Grant he was, with certain limitations,
his sole heir and executor, or, failing his being
alive at the time, the property would go to his
The duly-announced intention of the defeated
claimants to appeal to a higher court never
came to anything, and Mr. Butler- Edgcombe
was left to enjoy his property in peace.
He had been so much engrossed with his
THE SQUIRE MAKES HIS WILL 211
own worries that, although not absenting
himself abroad during the trial as originally
intended, he had had thought for little else ;
hence his intention to seek out Gertrude Rice,
and tell her what he had done in putting her
husband's name in his will in proof of his full
confidence in the young man, had been post-
poned from week to week, and neither by
visit nor letter had the sorrowing wife been
comforted by the good news. But with his
own burden of care removed — for the recent
trial had been a real trouble to the peaceful
nature of the honest -minded Squire — his
thoughts went off, not unnaturally, in the
direction of others still suffering ; and Gertrude
came in for a very special bestowal of
Poor young lady ; upon my honour, her
misfortune puts all my recent worry and
annoyance quite in the shade," he said, as he
hunted up her last letter — so full of well-
expressed sympathy — which had come to him
the day after his dear Matildas death, and
which he had duly acknowledged. I won't
lose another day, but will go down and call
upon her and explain everything." But an
attack of lumbago brought the Squire to
a sudden standstill, and it was quite another
fortnight before he was free to carry out his
2 12 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
By this time it was May, six months after
Gertrude s unhappy wedding day. As she had
written full details of her plans, which she
explained would be to remain in charge of
Aubrey's invalid mother until the miserable
mistake was found out and her husband restored
to her, Mr. Butler- Edgcombe anticipated no
difficulty in finding her.
Neither would there have been had it chanced
that his visit had been paid about a month
earlier. To-day when he reached Aubrey
Rice's old home it was to find a notice-board
up — ''This desirable villa residence to let,"
with the intimation that " For further particu-
lars, apply Messrs. Hardy & Bradfield, house
Miss Huntly was retained after her month's
probation as governess to Mr. Marshall's two
little sons. Their aunt believed her to be a
very suitable ''young person." She had nice
ways ; indeed, was a very pleasant-mannered
woman, and the children had taken to her
*' She tells us beautiful stories, ever so long
and no end jolly," said Albert, the elder boy,
when speaking to a caller about his governess,
whose name had been brought up by the lady
of the house in chatting with her visitors.
" Jack says she knows a lot, and I think she
does, though she says she did not learn Latin
at school and knew precious little Euclid."
Like most motherless boys brought up by a
maiden aunt, Albert was a little inclined to talk
as if much older than his years. Sympathy for
his loss and eager desire to make in measure
good the deficiency had led to spoiling.
'' I am almost afraid I should lack your
confidence in placing such an amiable young
lady under the same roof as a fine handsome
214 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
widower, my dear," another visitor ventured to
remark one day when calling upon Miss
" Oh, there is no fear of anything on that
score/' replied the lady, hastily. Miss Huntly
has had a sorrowful experience in her life, I feel
certain of that. There are times when she is
greatly depressed. Sometimes I think she
must have been jilted. Once I made sure of it
from something she remarked. • But when I
asked if she had proved the instability of man,
as I have done to my cost" (Miss Marshall
paused here and sighed ; every one knew her
life-story, a hasty wooing and a bitter forsaking
for a lady not fairer but more heavily weighted
with golden guineas, so the tale ran) ; when I
put this question to her she flushed up and said
with an outburst of feeling, ' Oh no ! her fiancd
had been true to her, but obstacles had come
between them ; perhaps later these would be
removed ; any way she would never marry any
other man.' "
''So I considered that settled," added Miss
Marshall, ''and I congratulated myself that
Miss Huntly would not worry me with any
secret plans of being the boys' stepmother. If
my brother should ever bring himself to the
thought of marrying again, he can't do better
than have his dear wife's cousin, Sophia Jane ! "
This will show how it happened that Ger-
trude found herself as time went on in Miss
Marshall's good graces. No previous governess
had been so secure from critical observation and
treatment of a kind which would be intended to
keep the young governess in her place. Ger-
trude was felt to be a safe ''young person," and
was allowed to make herself at home as no
predecessor since the death of Mrs. Marshall
had felt free to do.
It was a sultry but sunless morning late in
June. Gertrude had taken her young charges
for iheir favourite walk, where they could watch
the poor convicts at their work. The eyes of
love never lost their eager straining in searching
for a familiar face ; but in the two long months
which had passed since she came to Portbeach
not even once had she thought any form in
convict garb resembled Aubrey.
Perhaps, as a younger man and withal a
gentleman, it was thought better to put him to
some work in the prison, account-keeping or
otherwise ? Poor girl, she was all at sea as to
the restrictions of convicts, their mode of life,
the duties permitted and those forbidden.
She was watching two poor fellows at work
to-day, wondering if, after all, it was an utter
impossibility to effect an escape, when Jack,
the younger of her two charges, came up to
her in great excitement. One convict had
struck another, and the poor fellow hit lay
senseless on the ground.
2l6 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
" Come, Miss Huntly," pleaded the boy,
quick, and you will see for yourself how he
is hurt. See that horrid warder actually poking
him with the butt end of his gun. Oh, it's
cruel, cruel ! " and the little lad's tears began
Gertrude followed the excited child nearer to
the spot. By this time a small crowd had
gathered, and for a moment or two she did not
get a view of the unconscious man. It was
only when one of the soldierly warders lifted
him from the spot where he lay and flung him
over the shoulder of another warder, head
downwards but face to view, that she could
distinctly see his features ; then, with a muffled
sob, she sprang forward. What cared she at
the moment who saw her ?
The crowd which broke in two to allow the
man and his burden to pass admitted Gertrude.
The blood was streaming down the livid brow
of the unconscious man and mingled with his
closely-cropped hair as Miss Huntly pressed
near, her cheeks on fire, her eyes overflowing
Let me wipe the blood away," she besought
the man who followed behind. Indeed, I
mean no harm, but, please, it's an awful wound."
Don't fret, miss," said the warder addressed,
turning towards Gertrude as she walked beside
him and he followed the one who bore the
NO. 75 "
weight of the injured man, he isn't much
hurt. He'll be treated kindly enough; he
hadn't ought to be put to this rough work.
You can see by his hands he's not used to it."
Gertrude's tearful eyes precluded her from
seeing much of anything, for her gaze was
fixed on no other than the face of her husband.
Oh, if only his eyes would open, if only
consciousness would return and he be put
down upon his feet, just for one brief moment
to realise that she was near him !
But what could that achieve without words to
explain ? Gertrude never thought of it at the
moment, but she saw it plainly enough after-
wards and found actual comfort in realising
that consciousness did noi( come back while she
followed ; that Aubrey had not the pain of
seeing her at a time when sign or word would
She turned faint and sick with the awfulness
of the discovery made, and paused for a moment,
and in that pause lost grbund which she did
not attempt to regain later. She leant up
against some railings near and put her hand
over her eyes.
She had seen him. Her keen eyes had
taken in at a glance her husband, her Aubrey
in convict dress. Well, having seen him once,
why not again ?
She had a very confused idea of what was to
2l8 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
follow their mutually seeing and recognising
each other. But something would happen if
such were the case. Aubrey was innocent,
absolutely guiltless. No law was binding upon
an innocent man. If it were possible for him
to get his freedom, he had the right to do it.
None could say he erred in breaking away from
fetters which had no right to hold him. These
were her thoughts whenever dwelling upon the
painful subject of Aubrey's captivity.
A dumb ache came into Gertrude's heart, and
a cry to the God of justice and mercy to make
a way of escape for her cruelly-suffering
Albert and Jack returned to her side breath-
less with excitement.
The poor man had recovered, and had
managed to walk with support, and one of the
warders called him Seventy-five," so that was
his number. And as Gertrude tried to steady
her brain and behave as she might have done
had that morning's event not concerned the one
of all others for whom her heart was hungering,
she heard little Jack's voice behind her saying
over and over to himself, " Number seventy-
five, number seventy-five."
And as if to harrow her feelings still more,
although in another way it brought her com-
fort, little Jack, when saying his prayers at
her knee that night, said pathetically, " Please
Lord Jesus bless Number 75, and if he's been
wicked, forgive him and make him good. Per-
haps he's not really done anything bad, but he's
punished all the same, because people thought
he has, like the man in Miss Huntly's story ;
then please, //^^a;^^ Lord Jesus, send an angel to
get him out of prison like you sent one to Peter.
Let his wound heal soon, and say good-night to
him and comfort him, for Jesus Christ's sake —
After this episode, it was no wonder that the
little boys were always on the look-out for
Number 75. In vain Gertrude told them they
might get the men into trouble if they were
seen too near them. It was nothing to their
young feet to climb over the rugged heaps
which separated the convicts at work from the
ordinary passers-by on the road above them.
''We're only boys, Miss Huntly," said Albert,
earnestly; "no one will notice us, and if only we
could get near enough to say, ' Poor Number
75, we're very sorry for you'; he ought to be
glad, don't you think ? "
Ah, how glad ! Gertrude thought, but she
remained silent and the little boys accepted her
silence to mean permission, and their vigilant
search never flagged.
But in the weeks which followed, although
the daily walk when fine, with few exceptions,
found Gertrude and her young charges some-
2 20 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
where near to where the convicts worked, no
happy chance brought them within reach of
Number 75 ; and Httle Jack would regret the
fact, and wonder if perhaps **he had died of his
wound, or gone mad or something," often
giving his governess a troubled heart, and
robbing her nights of sleep, because to dwell
upon the might he's " meant to wonder if
Aubrey would live through those cruel years of
punishment for another's crime.
Of course, official communication would be
sent should what she dreaded happen, but none
knew excepting those situated as Gertrude was
what the "carking care" may grow to be under
circumstances akin to hers.
Miss Huntly awoke one morning with a
feverish cold. Miss Marshall was in dire con-
cern because it chanced the day before that a
caller, the mother of ten, had incidentally-
mentioned that chicken-pox was very much
about, and the school her little girl attended
was closed in consequence.
Without giving her governess a chance of
declining the kind consideration, the mistress of
the house sent without delay for the doctor.
By the time he arrived Gertrude was feeling
too unwell to mind what steps were likely to be
taken to secure her isolation from the children.
No decision could be arrived at as to the nature
of her ailment for a few days so there was
nothing but to wait.
Meanwhile Miss Marshall started off to a
relative living near to Basingstoke with her
two nephews, getting her brother to migrate for
the present to a private hotel near at hand.
A fortnight's change would do her good and
the little boys would enjoy a run in the hay
222 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
All arrangements were made for Miss
Huntly's comfort. Amy, the sewing maid,
would bring up her meals and be her exclusive
attendant, sleeping in an adjacent room, so that
night and day Miss Huntly would have some
one near to her.
The Doctor said jocosely there was no help
for it; after these elaborate preparations Miss
Huntly would be clearly neglecting her duty if
she did not now chance to develop the much-
feared chicken-pox. Sure enough, in due course
it turned out to be that unpleasant but seldom
Gertrude had it mildly, and only actually kept
her bed for three days. Amy, the maid, was
most thoughtful and kind. Indeed, as time
went on, Gertrude became quite fond of her.
She had hitherto thought of her as a very
reserved young woman, whose quiet manners
and hushed tones when speaking suggested a
crushed spirit. Amy was never heard to laugh ;
indeed, she seldom smiled, but she was an
excellent servant and had come to Miss
Marshall very highly recommended.
As a sick nurse, for such she really became
to Miss Huntly, Amy was quite a different
creature. Her reserve gave way, and she
chatted freely of her travels on the Continent
with the lady whose sister had recommended
her to her present situation, to whom she was
evidently very much attached.
SICK-ROOM CONFIDENCES 223
" Why did you leave her ? " asked Gertrude,
She died," said Amy, bursting into tears.
Well one day, and dead the next. I have
never rallied from the shock ; but her sister was
most kind to me. We had sent for her — my
master was an aged man, an admiral — and she
brought me to England and got me this situa-
tion. I had a great desire to live in Portbeach,
or near to it ; that's why I came."
''Where is your home, Amy?" enquired
Gertrude, really interested, although every one
knows how ready an invalid is to talk, if only
for the sake of passing time, which is so prone
to drag in the sick-room.
I have no home," was Amy's reply, but her
cheeks grew very red, as if something lay
behind the statement which she would fain
And Gertrude said, her warm heart moved
to sympathy, ''Poor darling!" and Amy,
unused to tender words of late, bowed her
head and wept. Then, as if on the impulse of
some sudden thought, she drew a low seat near
to Gertrude's couch and talked long and
earnestly, but all the time in hushed tones as if
what she had to say could only be spoken thus.
Her tale was a sad one. I have no intention
of giving it in detail here. There is enough
sorrowful reading in this story to make it wise
2 24 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
to keep from it all sadness which does not
immediately concern it. Still, the wonderful
development of plans as touching Gertrude's
and Aubrey's near future belong so absolutely
to this chance coincidence, the confidence
established in this season of sickness between
Miss Huntly, the governess, and Amy, the
sewing maid, that links in my story would
be lacking did I not tell enough to explain
how events followed in natural order rather
than came to pass in obscure and irregular
The actual cause of Amy's trouble, which
went back at least ten years, was unhappiness
at home because of the advent there of a
young stepmother. Wilful and wayward, the
young girl, who had hitherto followed dress-
making as a daily worker at a well-known
drapery establishment, would not be won to
patience and grateful acceptance of the newly-
created relationship which had brought such
evident comfort and joy into the life of her
devoted father. As an only child Amy had
doubtless been spoilt ; and seven years had
elapsed between the death of her own mother
and the advent into the home of the new wife.
So Amy had left her father's roof. At two-
and-twenty she had a right to be independent,
and so forth, finding in London what she
thought to be a suitable opening in a drapery
establishment in Bayswater. Her honest,
steady-going father would have preferred her
to have ''gone into service," feeling there
was safety for the motherless girl if in the
home of a mistress who took some interest
in her maids (and are there not thousands
such ? ), whereas in business " who knew
what trials and temptations might not be in
store for her ? The very independence craved
for was in itself a forerunner of evil possibilities
to one of Amy's temperament.
But the girl had acted quite upon her own
judgment and contrary to her father's. Of
course I see it all now in looking back," she
said, tearfully. " The first step was — for me —
a wrong step, and it took me by the way of
paths which needed very sure-footed treading
not to step over some precipice or otherwise
get into danger."
Then, in the hush of twilight, the soft,
summer air stealing through the wide-open
window which faced westwards ; the garden
beneath, with its restful colouring and fragrance
which ascended as an evening sacrifice to
heaven, filling the room in which they were
with the strangely-soothing influence to nerves
and senses. Amy told the most troubled part
of her story, pressing her thin and delicately
shaped hands to her burning cheeks as she
spoke of wrong and disgrace and flight —
226 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
anywhere to be beyond the knowledge or
finding of her friends.
Then came records of loss with loneliness
and desolation, of hopeless depression, until
one found her — her late mistress — working
as sewing maid in a pension in Cannes, whither
she had been taken by a young widow^ who
was too glad to get a travelling maid to care
much about any character beyond the one
given by the register office, where she had
gone with her needs. A most respectable
young woman ; just the kind to suit you ; has
been boarding here some time, and we know
her to be a good needlewoman," etc., etc.
Under the good influence of the lady who
met with her at the pension, Amy had found
hope again in life and living. She had aimed
to rise on her dead self to higher things."
Only that gentle mistress, of whom death so
suddenly deprived her, knew her sad secret.
The sister summoned to Cannes had been
grateful to the maid who had showed such
devotion to the one whom she came too late
to see again in life. She had brought Amy
home to England with her, and by her own
desire found her a situation at Portbeach.
Such was in brief Amy's story as told to
Gertrude's sympathetic ears.
But," said the listener, as the young girl
paused, giving vent to feelings pent up and
all too ready to find a vent, what about
your father ; surely he knows ? "
No, poor father thinks of me, I hope, as
dead. I came here to be near him — he has
been moved to Portbeach, appointed to a
position here — hoping for courage to seek him
out, but it has never come. Oh, how could
I spoil his life by burdening him with the
secret of my disgrace ? " and Amy looked
earnestly at the young lady to whom she had
told her bitter tale of woe.
But are you not sure of his love?" said
Gertrude, a lump rising in her own throat
(would, she thought, that she could be as sure
of her father's).
"Yes, he loved me then, but could he now?"
whispered Amy ; but this time she did not look
up ; the question seemed one long ago answered
in her own mind.
Love, true beautiful love, never alters," said
Gertrude ; and she thought of Aubrey, and
knew at that moment he was as much, yes, more
to her than he had ever been in her life.
But an interruption came before more could
be said. The housemaid had arrived with re-
freshment for the sick-room, and a bunch of
roses for Miss Huntly, sent up by cook ''with
her respects, hoping she would soon be able to
be about again."
It was strange that in less than forty-eight
228 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
hours Gertrude and Amy had changed places.
The sewing-maid was laid up with the malady;
the governess asked the doctor's permission to
attend to her. She was well enough she w^as
sure, and glad to be of service to her gentle
Permission was given, but later, some ten
days, a trained nurse was brought in. Amy
had no rallying power. The illness itself was
without complication, but the poor girl's system
was totally unequal to bear strain or shock of
Miss Marshall meanwhile had been home for
a few hours, to make plans likely to conduce to
the comfort of the two invalids. Of course her
little nephews could not come home yet — the
whitewashers and paperhangers must do their
work before such a step would be advisable —
and she herself was enjoying the freedom of
visiting old friends ; so, having made arrange-
ments up to date for the household. Miss
Marshall went away again, and the faithful
servant who occupied the position of cook-
housekeeper was once more in full charge.
Gertrude spent much of her time in the gar-
den when the trained nurse was on duty. Oh,
how often in the day her thoughts turned to
that dark prison cell where Aubrey would be
living out so many hours in solitary con-
finement ! And then the rich blood would
suffuse her cheeks and brow as a feeHng of
indignation and anger filled her heart by reason
of the cruel injustice of all that had meant con-
demning an innocent man and letting the guilty-
Surely, surely the God of love and mercy
would bring the hidden things to light and
clear her husband's dishonoured name ! But
how soon ? Must he go through to the bitter
end of those seven long years, one of which
had not yet passed ?
At such times Gertrude found comfort in
being as near to her husband as her presence
within a mile of his prison suggested ; she
thought she breathed the same air, heard the
same sounds of gun-firing or bugle-call, and at
times military music, and rested beneath the
same starlit sky. It was, after all, but poor
consolation ; yet to have been without it would
have seemed to change the twilight to the
darkest night of her sorrowful experiences.
One day Dr. Meredith, who had been most
attentive through Gertrude's illness, making
her feel him to be not only her medical atten-
dant but her friend, sought Miss Huntly out in
the garden after paying his usual daily visit
I am afraid the poor girl is very seriously
ill," he said, alluding to his patient upstairs. I
am going to call in another opinion and supply
230 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
a second nurse; I must not let you be overdone.
Grave symptoms have set in, and unless these
quickly abate my patient cannot rally."
The news was a great shock to Gertrude.
Instinctively she thought that the poor girl so
seriously ill, with none of her friends about her,
must be sadly burdened in mind by the secret
which stood between her and seeking out her
When an hour later she took the nurse's
place in the sick-room — probably her last
opportunity of being alone with Amy, as with
a second nurse her presence would be un-
needed — she lost no time in urging her, ^*as
she remained so ill," to send for her father.
I dare not. Miss Huntly," said Amy in
feeble tones, her lips visibly trembling. I
am not strong enough to tell him all, and
how could I see him without explaining ? "
Let me go to him and tell him what you
have told me," said Gertrude, impulsively. I
would be very careful in what I said, and I
could assure him of your penitence, your re-
morse, your longing for his forgiveness. He
would come at once to see you, and your heart
would be made glad. Oh, Amy, it is worth
the effort, dear! A few hours and your poor
troubled mind might be at rest, and your hope
of recovery would be so much greater if it
were so ! "
SICK-ROOM CONFIDENCES 23 I
Amy was weeping silently ; her voice failed
her, though her lips moved. At length the
words came — Go and tell him all ; he is chief
warder at the prison."
Gertrude's heart bounded. Her whole being
quivered with excitement. Was she actually
empowered to find her way up to that gate,
and within it, charged with a message from a
dying daughter to one of the officials ? Refused
admittance would be impossible, and then once
there she would be at least within sight of her
husband's cell, almost within sound of his voice
perhaps. (She had a very confused idea of
what existed behind the gate.) The thought
unnerved her. She felt sick and giddy for a
moment ; but rising from her chair as the nurse
returned to her patient, she leant over Amy and
whispered, I will go this afternoon, dear. It
is sure to be all right, and your dear father will
be bound to come and see you."
Amy flashed upon her a look of gratitude,
which revealed how deep had been the longing
for the father whose anger she so greatly feared.
Might not her troubled conscience be more or
less responsible for the weakened state in which
she lay to-day — that state around which the
doctor gathered gravest fears ?
A STORY TOLD TO SYMPATHETIC EARS
But Gertrude did not venture after all to the
convict prison. Chancing on her way there to
meet the good doctor who had shown such
fatherly interest in his young patient, in answer
to his question, Where are you hurrying off
to. Miss Huntly ? May I give you a lift in my
carriage ? See, it is over there in the shade,"
she had explained briefly her mission. Amy
had relatives holding office in the prison.
They did not know of her nearness to them ;
she had grave matters to talk over with them."
Then, my dear young lady," said the doctor,
hastily, "be advised by me and have the inter-
view at your own house. On every ground it
would be better. You will have a better chance
of a calm hearing out of sight and sound of
prison life and discipline, and the very atmos-
phere of pure officialism. Write for an appoint-
ment ; say it is urgent — must be held within a
few hours — life is in the balance. Bring the
one most concerned within the touch of home
life. If your interview is to partake of the
A STORY TOLD TO SYMPATHETIC EARS 233
nature of an appeal, gather about yourself
circumstances most favourable to the making."
I will take your advice," said Gertrude, at
once convinced of the doctor's wisdom, and she
hastened home again and wrote her letter. It
was addressed to The Chief Warder," and
• contained only a few brief sentences.
"By the doctor's request I am writing to
ask you to lose no time in coming to see your
daughter. She occupies the position of sewing-
maid in a family where I am nursery governess.
She is very ill — dying, it is feared ; but an
interview with yourself, if one of loving
tenderness, might conduce to her recovery.
At present she and I are in the house alone
with the servants. Any hour you name will
suit, but let it be (in the interests of Amy) with
as little delay as possible. — Faithfully yours,
''Gertrude H. Huntly.
'' 6'.— Please ask for me when calling."
Having posted the letter, Gertrude waited
with feverish anxiety the issue of the venture.
Amy had to be told the changed plan of
approaching her father. "It seemed best to
make an appointment " was all the explanation
Gertrude gave, sparing the poor girl the added
excitement of expecting the interview to be at
When about noon the following day Amy
said, wistfully, " I think you could get an answer
234 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
to your letter by the three o'clock post to-day,
and then you could go at once, couldn't you ? "
Gertrude promised to wait in that no time
might be lost in getting the letter ; but she said
no more. She was in the dining-room alone,
having her lunch a little before two o'clock —
the kind and sympathetic housekeeper putting
her there rather than in the schoolroom, as the
coolest room in the house — when a card was
brought to her, upon which was written simply,
" By appointment."
''Where have you shown him?" Gertrude
asked, wondering if to say "the gentleman" or
"In the library, miss."
"Thank you, I will go to him there," she
said, rising at once and leaving the room.
Gertrude had pictured the chief warder to be
a man of stern exterior, manner, and deport-
ment, touched by the severe discipline of prison
life. She was both puzzled and astonished to
find him quite the contrary. He was only of
medium height, whereas Amy was unusually
tall for a woman ; dark in his colouring — his
daughter being fair — bright and genial in both
manner and tone.
At once she felt at home with him. If not a
man of culture and good social standing, he
was one of Nature's gentlemen. What greatly
struck her at the time, and even more in
A STORY TOLD TO SYMPATHETIC EARS 235
subsequent interviews, was a certain combina-
tion of strength and tenderness. He could be
strong, even to stern, uncompromising stoicism ;
touch but another spring in his nature and he
was tender even to tears; while all the time he
gave the impression of being a very just man,
one intolerant of severe treatment, if undeserved.
Gertrude got through her explanation about
Amy's sad history far better than she had
anticipated. Every word she uttered was
listened to with gentle, courteous attention.
The kindly face which turned towards her
with eager questioning made the telling of the
story easy, simply because of the sympathy
"Take me to her!" he exclaimed, as Gertrude
paused, having explained how gravely the
doctors thought of her condition. ''My poor
darling ! what she must have suffered ! "
Then he added, pathetically, '' Strange that
all this should happen at this time when I am
seriously contemplating resigning my present
post to go abroad ! Amy has been so long
as one dead to us, and yet but for her I should
years ago have settled in America, where I
have relatives who urge me to go to them."
We draw the curtain over the meeting of
father and daughter. Gertrude prepared Amy
for the interview, then she and the nurse with-
drew — within call if wanted. Half an hour
236 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
later and the chief warder came to them as
they sat by an open window on a landing near,
a glow of happiness upon his expressive face.
If not intruding, I will call again to-morrow
at this hour," he said.
And each day for a week he came, using his
dinner hour in this way, rejoicing to see his
child improving in health ; conscious that his
visits were doing much to promote her ultimate
recovery. The first day when Amy was per-
mitted to be carried into the garden chanced to
be a Sunday afternoon, when the chief warder
was off duty for the rest of the day. The
housekeeper had begged Amy to keep her
father to tea, hence his visit was prolonged,
and when she grew tired and asked to be taken
back to her room, having helped her there, he
returned to the garden to take leave of Miss
Then came the opportunity Gertrude had
waited for so long. She spoke to him of the
prison, of its inmates ; painted a scene to him
in vivid colours of a young girl she knew who,
on her wedding day, was rudely severed from
her husband, falsely accused of crime. She
gave a pathetic description of an invalid mother,
of the devoted life of this son ; his noble
character, brave and fearless when duty was
concerned, gentle and tender as a daughter
might have been in his care of his afflicted
A STORY TOLD TO SYMPATHETIC EARS 237
mother. In her house, almost in her presence,
he was dragged off to prison and to his trial.
She described the trial, the evidence of the
chief witness, the writing-case with the strange
strokes, as if a hand were practising to copy a
signature ; of the missing latch-key, and of the
senior partner's prejudice against the young
man. She hinted that the whole thing was a
well-arranged plot on the part of one evidently
needing money, whereas the one condemned
had, it was admitted, no need. No motive was
forthcoming for the crime of which he was
accused. All this Gertrude portrayed with
spirit and energy ; then came a pause and a
sudden breaking forth into weeping, and the
chief warder knew without the telling that she
was painting a history with which her own
experience was strangely interwoven.
In a fervour of wrath and indignation against
the miscarriage of justice at the trial which
should have cleared the innocent and given
judgment against one (though it might be at
the time some one unknown) to whom the
evidence clearly pointed, he exclaimed, raising
his hands in an impressive manner, " This beats
all the painful stories I have ever heard. That
poor suffering fellow deserves for the unexpected
to happen ! "
You mean," said Gertrude, turning her
tear-stained face towards him, her mind sud-
238 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
denly grasping a new thought, "you mean, if
such an one could escape from prison, such a
thing would be quite right, quite justifiable ?
Best not to say what I mean, young lady,"
replied the chief warder, "more than this,
that if it ever came within my power to help an
innocent man like the one you tell me of to get
free from the position which will be making
havoc with body and mind, I don't say I should
not feel my duty to my Queen and country
would stand first with me, and my obedience to
prison rules second. But tell me, what might
be your connection with the young gentleman ;
I presume you are his — sister ? "
Gertrude shook her head, as she buried her
hot cheeks in her hands. Then, glancing up
pathetically into the chief warder's face, she
said, I am his wife, and that is why I am here,
to be at least somewhere near him. Would
I could share his imprisonment with him ! "
Tears started in the honest eyes of the chief
warder. We must remember he had been
already touched by more than common grati-
tude in realising that " Miss Huntly " had been
the direct means of restoring his long-lost Amy
to him. Naturally enough, the pathetic story
he had listened to was doubly affecting when
realising that the one who told it was actually
the poor young wife from whom an innocent
husband was torn on the very day of their
A STORY TOLD TO SYMPATHETIC EARS 239
''What is his number?" he said, in a voice
scarcely above a whisper.
And Gertrude repHed quickly, '' Seventy-
" Then be assured," he continued, as he
extended his hand to her, grasping hers in the
warm hand-pressure of sympathy, "from this
moment I shall take a very special interest in
' Number 75. '"
And then he talked of Amy, how soon she
would be ready to come home, how her step-
mother longed to see her — at best she might
only stay there on a visit, but the scheme of
going abroad could now hasten forward ; then
he took his leave, and Gertrude felt, she knew
not why or wherefore, she did not dare to
dwell upon reasons, he had left her in possession
of a new and weighty treasure, even the treasure
A few days later and, by the doctor s per-
mission, Amy was allowed to accompany her
father to his "quarters" within the prison walls.
She had pleaded so earnestly to go ; it meant
"home" to her whatever the surroundings. In
a little while she would return to her life as a
" sewing-maid " ; but now, to-day, she craved
to be with her father.
And now it was time for Gertrude to form
some holiday plans. Miss Marshall had asked
her to remain until a certain date when she
240 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
would return to see to the house being
straightened before her brother and nephews
came back. This gave Gertrude a Sunday by
herself. On the Friday previous she received
a letter from the chief warder ; it was brief and
to the point.
" Dear Miss Huntly, — Amy tells me you
can play the church organ. Our organist will
be away on Sunday ; would you like to take
her place ? I want to test your pluck. Be
prepared for a great strain and refuse to come
if you feel it might be too much for you.
Should you decide to take the service, be at the
prison gate at nine and wait to be admitted.
You will be expected ; the door will be opened
without your needing to give notice you are
there. You will be taken up to the organ loft ;
the service over, you will leave as you came,
without a word to any one. Send a line by
return. Amy sends her love. — Yours faithfully,
" Chief Warder.
''P.S. — Our usual organist is a connection of
my wife's, so I can manage this little business
Dare she accept ? Would her courage hold
out if, once within the prison chapel, she realised
that Aubrey himself was there, actually within
a measurable distance ? Then her timidity gave
way to courage. Of course she dare go through
with this, and that which might mean a hundred
A STORY TOLD TO SYMPATHETIC EARS 24 1
times more nerve, more effort, for was there not
hushed up somewhere within the very act itself,
hope of a might-be beyond ? If equal to one
great strain, might she not be to another ? And
if the unexpected were to happen, would it not
be on the line of some special effort on her
With feverish haste Gertrude wrote and said
how pleased she would be to preside at the
organ the following Sunday. She presumed it
would be the usual Church of England service
with which she was quite familiar.
A SUNDAY SERVICE IN THE CONVICT PRISON
The night before the morning which was to
give Gertrude the right to enter the prison
for a brief hour (where her husband was
serving out his seven years' sentence for
forgery — alas ! for the cruel wrong to an
innocent man) found her very sleepless. She
rose at early dawn and went towards the
The little birds were softly twittering,
holding experience meetings in the leafy
branches of some well-grown trees as birds
are wont to do in July. Their thanksgiving
anthem of early spring-tide had been sung,
the wooing days — in which some eager swain
sang loud and clear his best to win his mate
— had long since passed, making way for
anxieties known only to fond parents who
have to search for worm and fly wherewith
to supply the tender needs of the fledgling.
And now in the soft and balmy days of July
there came a hush to these garden voices,
but all the same they were sweet and com-
panionable to Gertrude, who had felt strange
A SUNDAY SERVICE IN THE CONVICT PRISON 243
loneliness since Amy had gone to her father's
Gertrude's musings always gravitated towards
her imprisoned husband. But to-day they
seemed to be outlined, to be definite enough,
to take less hazy form. To-day life seemed no
longer a mute endurance of a secret sorrow but
peculiarly awake, vivid, and weighty with
anticipations to which imagination gave rein ;
strong with new feelings, new sensations, it was
life trembling and tingling with — hope.
And this very hope made her impatient for
activity. The moments just then seemed as
hours. How could she wait and retain the
calm exterior which she always wore before
others ? Since Amy left there was no one
with whom to share her thoughts, none to
minister sympathy, excepting the birds and the
flowers ; but until now the pressure had never
been so great of the secret her tired heart had
carried all these months.
Gertrude had opened her window wide and
had seated herself upon a low ottoman, her
flannel dressing-gown draping her lightly-clad
figure. It was when feeling how long the time
to wait before finding her way to the prison
that, getting still nearer to the window, she
stretched out her arms as if in mute appeal to
heaven. Again and again her lips moved as
if in silent prayer. The hidden forces of her
244 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
nature were stirred. Within a few hours she
would be near the one who was never out of
her thoughts. She would, on her organ stool,
if her trembling hands found nerve to touch the
notes, lead his voice in the Te Deum. Together
they would say the Lord's Prayer. What
matter a thousand other voices ; it would be to
her just her own and Aubrey's which would
repeat the " Our Father."
And thus musing and praying — her prayer
taking one unutterable longing, and laying it
down speechless before a God of justice and
mercy — even the anguished plea, " Release an
innocent man from undeserved punishment" —
time dragged itself along until
The distant hum of moving multitudes astir,
And all that in a city murmur swells,
changed early dawn into the day begun, and
Gertrude knew the world was peopled by others
than herself and the little birds which had
shared her solitude in the hours now passed.
She dressed herself with the utmost care.
Her breakfast was eaten with real appetite.
Excitement made her eager even in the taking
of food. Then the deep-toned clock of the
parish church struck eight, and Gertrude
knew that she must start on that absorbingly
interesting journey which seemed to her the
forerunner of blissful possibilities.
A SUNDAY SERVICE IN THE CONVICT PRISON 245
Amy's father had broadly hinted in a letter
which came after she had written to say she
would preside at the organ, ''Get Sunday well
over, and who knew what might be laid in store
beyond ? " — mysterious allusions which had but
one interpretation in Gertrude's mind. It was
a hope, however remote and dim, which shed a
ray of light upon Aubrey's escape. That the
warder would help in some way to bring this
about Gertrude had never doubted from the
hour when she had poured her weird story into
sympathetic ears, and heard the exclamation,
'' This beats all the painful stories I have ever
heard. That poor suffering fellow deserves for
the unexpected to happen ! "
The hour appointed for Gertrude to be at
the prison gate was nine o'clock. She was
there punctual to the moment. As she stood
trembling with excitement and anticipation,
she heard the clanging of keys and the jangle
of a heavy door; then the portly form of the
janitor appeared. He was one with a more
genial face than she had expected to belong
to the keeper of the prison gate. He beckoned
mutely to her. The great door opened and
the great door closed, and she found herself
in a dim, deep-mouthed, vaulted stone passage,
with a great iron gate still between her and
the courtyard of the prison.
The court looked pleasant, even homely,
246 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
with its green grass plots and parterres,
with the length of the prison chapel for its
background. She peered through the
bars, watching with nervous, terribly-strained
feelings the movements of a few warders
in blue and brass, with whistles slung round
them. Amy's father was not one of these.
Then there was a sound as of the tramp of
feet, and, turning in the direction from whence
it came, she saw a regiment of prisoners
marching through a long corridor open to
the air, but cut off securely from the court
by a formidable grille. A clang of bells, a
jangle of keys, a creaking of iron gates, and
she followed a warder, who led her up a
stone staircase, mounting many steps, passing
through a doorway at the top into the organ
gallery of the prison chapel.
Then for a moment the chief warder came
forward to meet her. No words passed between
them. He led her in silence to the organ and
left her. His look had been kindly, sym-
pathetic, with something like a father's anxiety,
suggesting the question " Will this be too much
for you?" that was all. Gertrude's heart was
beating, but she walked erect, and as words
were uncalled for, there was no need to test the
steadiness, or otherwise, of her voice.
She took her place at the organ and awaited
the signal to start. Meanwhile the steady
A SUNDAY SERVICE IN THE CONVICT PRISON 247
tramp of prisoners filing into their seats fell
upon her ear with strange, pathetic sound ;
somewhere among those thousand or more men
was Aubrey, her innocent and beloved Aubrey.
Would he feel, by some strange instinct such
as we hear and read of when some are warned
of approaching calamity or unexpected joy,
" they were sure something was about to
happen " — would he feel her nearness, and
would it be too much for him ? The thought
was agony. But no ; Aubrey, the Aubrey she
knew and remembered, had strong nerves.
Nothing would move him to betray his feelings.
How quietly he had submitted to be taken in
charge on that dreadful day not yet nine
months ago! How nobly he had stood and
faced the constables !
The chaplain came in in the familiar robe of
the clergy, the governor rose from his seat and
the congregation to their feet and the hymn
started. For a moment Gertrude's trembling
fingers had wandered over the keys without
producing a sound. It was a pause not likely
to be noticed by the officials and far less by the
poor prisoners themselves, but the fact meant
much to her ; it roused her, and the hymn
was started with vigour, and throughout the
organist did her part. The words sung had
new and strange meanings to Gertrude from
that day. She was so conscious all the while
248 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
that Aubrey's voice would be amongst the
singers, and to him the hymn, apart from the
home memories and associations, would be an
intelligent rendering of praise. But to how
many would the verses seem as out of all
harmony with their surroundings and inmost
The hymn which opened that weird service
was, " Before Jehovah's awful throne." Pa-
thetically sad it sounded as sung by criminals,
for the most part men who in losing a good
name had lost hope and ambition, whose very
tones were metallic, lacking the sweet vibrations
of love. Surely the grand old hymn had found
its way into the prison hymn-book to awaken
home memories and inspire beneficent thoughts
of a future which lay beyond the prison walls
for those who to-day had their place in the
lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps ! "
After the first verse Gertrude forgot all else
but that she was helping Aubrey to sing a
hymn of which he had once spoken to her as
one of his favourites. This was in one of those
happy Sundays spent with her in the Vicarage
home of her adoption. What would his
thoughts be to-day as he sang out the words? —
His sovereign power without our aid
Made us of clay and formed us men ;
And when like wandering sheep we strayed.
He brougl;it us to His fold again.
A SUNDAY SERVICE IN THE CONVICT PRISON 249
We are His people, we His care,
Our souls and all our mortal frame ;
What lasting honours shall we rear
Almighty Maker to Thy name?
Wide as the world is Thy command.
Vast as eternity Thy love,
Firm as a rock Thy truth must stand
When rolling years must cease to move.
It was during the reading of the lessons — the
service throughout was that of the Church of
England, the same as was being said and sung
in thousands of churches that day in the British
Empire — that Gertrude found her chance to
look around her. The chapel v/as light and
cheerful. God's sunshine was !^streaming in
through the half-open windows; God's air smelt
pure and sweet, but even as she thought so,
Gertrude was conscious of other fumes, faint
and suggestive of the sea. Then it dawned
upon her mind that these would be the prison-
tainted fumes of oakum, otherwise of old ships*
She could only see the backs of the convicts
in their brownish-yellow suits branded with the
broad-arrow, row after row extending across
the width and the length of the chapel ; the
warders were seated on upraised seats, high
above their charges to right and left, to watch
and control their slightest movement.
Never until that moment had Gertrude quite
250 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
realised what the loss of personal freedom
involved. Never had her heart felt such an
aching pity for Aubrey. To think of him
there, his head one of the thousand or more
heads before her. Had she dwelt upon the fact
she would have lost nerve. As it was, a feeling
of faintness crept for the moment over her, but
she battled against it and schooled herself to go
through with the task she had undertaken.
In this, quite unknown to herself, she was
helped by the wonderful discipline and order
which prevailed in the body of the chapel.
''Eyes front" is prison rule, and never could
she detect a movement in the mass of heads
below which could suggest to her mind other
than strictest obedience to that law.
At length the service closed. Gertrude could
never remember more than the text of the
sermon. At the moment it struck her as being
well chosen — If thou be wise, thou shalt be
wise for thyself." The last hymn sung was
over, and the governor walked down the chapel
in solemn dignity, followed by some officials ;
then came the convicts, row after row, marching
quietly out in obedience to the eye or finger of
This would have been Gertrude s opportunity
of glancing down upon the moving figures below
on the bare chance that Aubrey might look up,
but for his own sake and hers she dare not
A SUNDAY SERVICE IN THE CONVICT PRISON 25 I
hazard recognition there. So far all had gone
well. Why not to the end ? She had forgotten
to ask if it were usual for the organist to play-
while the prisoners were passing out, but, on
the impulse of the moment, she started Batiste's
Andante, It was the last thing she had ever
played upon the organ to Aubrey. It held
precious memories. As her fingers glided over
the keys in sympathetic runs, her left hand
taking the melody in clear, pleading tones,
there was a sudden pause in the line of men
filing out. One had stayed as if arrested,
throwing those who followed out of step. It
was only a momentary pause, but one noted by
the chief warder, who retained his seat until the
chapel was clear.
The one to create this sudden halt was
HOW THE UNEXPECTED " HAPPENED
Gertrude Hastings had arranged to spend
four or five weeks at a private boarding house
in the neighbourhood. It was difficult to
explain to Miss Marshall (who returned home
the Monday after the events related in the last
chapter to superintend whitewashers and paper-
hangers and prepare the house for the coming
back of her little nephews) that to go quite
away just now would be too severe a trial to
face unnecessarily. Had she gone further
afield for her holiday it could only have been
to take up her residence in a similar retreat.
With the door at home closed against her, and
Aunt Matilda" gone from Edgcombe Manor,
and her good friends Mr. and Mrs. Brownlow
abroad, Gertrude had nowhere to go. She
was completely, in this respect, homeless and
" I shall not be far away," she had said with
heightened colour as Miss Marshall inquired
what her holiday plans were likely to be,
certainly for the next few days. I have
arranged to go to the Fair View Boarding
HOW "THE unexpected" HAPPENED 253
House to await the issue of plans which are
"You will be very comfortable there," Miss
Marshall had replied, heartily. *' I know the
people well ; they are eminently respectable,
indeed, quite superior ! " She remembered
Mrs. Brownlow s hint when testifying to Miss
Gertrude Huntly s abilities and suitability for
the position of governess to young children —
" She had unfortunately been cut off from her
friends by the most unjust action of a severe
and uncompromising father ; it would be kind
never to refer to the fact but to accept this ex-
planation of Miss Huntjy's apparent isolation."
Miss Marshall had acted upon the advice given,
and when the boarding house plan was spoken
of, accepted the statement without comment or
So Gertrude and her luggage removed to
Fair View on the Tuesday following the
Sunday when she had presided at the organ.
She had taken care to let Amy know her plans
and present address, hence a letter which
reached her late on Thursday night had lost
no time in coming.
Amy's handwriting was well formed and
easy to read, but to-day her sentences were
not well put together, giving Gertrude the
impression that either she was pressed for time,
or had been suddenly betrayed into great
2 54 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
nervousness. Still, there was quite enough in
the latter's news to explain that she must have
been labouring under feelings of great excite-
ment when she wrote it.
" What will you say when I tell you we're
going to live abroad ? It's all decided, and no
time has to be lost. We'll be leaving directly.
I want so much to see you. Father says if you
didn't mind we could spend a day or two at a
farm house some few miles from this place.
He'll anyway make the arrangements in case
you incline — and you had better ; I can't quite
tell you how important it is for you to come.
Please don't let anything interfere. Father
says if you'll come the same way you did on
Sunday — Oh ! I forgot ; he told me to tell
you he admired your courage and pluck. You'll
find us on the move about nine o'clock. We
shall be catching the 9.35 train. Bring a hand-
bag with you, just enough in for the night.
Excuse me writing so freely, but I never can
forget your goodness to me when I was ill, and
father feels very grateful too. And oh ! I forgot
to tell you I quite love my stepmother now.
And father says, if you do come, don't be late ;
and perhaps you'd better not say much about
where you're going to to any one. Prison rules
are so strict. I have just remembered I never
told you the day we leave : it's Friday, the night
after you get this letter, which you needn't
HOW **THE unexpected" HAPPENED 255
please answer, as, of course, you'll be there. —
Yours sincerely and gratefully,
*'P.S. — My neuralgia is as bad as ever."
Gertrude s heart was beating, audibly beat-
ing, after re-reading the letter. Was there a
hint in it that "the unexpected" might happen ?
Her cheeks flushed, then suddenly paled. She
made an excuse, and stole away to her room.
Twenty-four hours only before she would know.
There was but little sleep for her that night.
The next day she kept much to her room.
** She would be going away for a day or two.
She had letters to write."
Exactly at nine on that memorable Friday
night Gertrude reached the prison gate. Two
cabs were already there, each well-laden with
luggage, but the prison door was closed. She
walked about as who was expected there
might do, keeping her eye upon the spot from
which she looked for Amy to emerge.
At length there was the sound of jingling
keys, the moving of a bar and the door stood
open, only a little space, just far enough to
comfortably allow a human being to pass out ;
and then it closed as Amy appeared, closely
veiled and with a thick woollen shawl about her
mouth and head. She was laden with wraps ;
scarcely anything of her face was visible ; her
voice was very unsteady as she bid Gertrude
256 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
get into the cab nearest. She took her seat,
asking the driver to wait until the others came
out before starting. **Were they in plenty of
''Yes, miss, we can soon cover the ground
this quiet night," was the reply; "there's next
to no traffic you see at this time of day."
Amy put her wraps down on the seat in front,
drawing the shawl which covered her head and
mouth a little more closely round her. "Oh,
this awful neuralgia," she exclaimed, "I have
lost so many nights' rest I feel quite unnerved."
Then she added more brightly, I think we
could make room for father in our cab, don't
you? That will leave mother and aunt to
themselves in the other cab." (This was
spoken loudly enough for the cabman, as
he stood by the door, to hear every word.)
Gertrude was sure it could be managed, and
then, suddenly starting up, Amy exclaimed,
"Oh, I have forgotten something. Will you
take care of my wraps for me. Miss Huntly,
while I run back for my hand-bag ? "
She pushed the door open as the cabman
unlatched it and hastened off ; at a given signal
the prison door opened to her from within. It
was only a few seconds later, just time enough
to reach her father's quarters and return, and
she came back accompanied by the chief warder.
She was stooping at the moment, busily engaged
HOW "THE unexpected" HAPPENED 257
in closing a small bag, the lock of which
appeared to be troublesome.
''Come, my dear," said he, hastily; "don't
lose time or we shall miss our train. Get in,
while I see after your mother and aunt, and then,
as you are so nervous about being by yourself,
ril come in your cab. Beg pardon. Miss Huntly,
I had forgotten you were in that dark corner.
Have the goodness to help Amy close that
troublesome bag!" and shutting the door after
his daughter had stepped into the vehicle, he
hurried off to the assistance of the two other
ladies who at that moment appeared, each laden
with a bundle of shawls. ^
" Let me help you. Amy," said Gertrude,
putting her hand for the bag in question, which
she was allowed to take from the trembling
hand which held it without resistance. At
that moment Amy sneezed twice and raised
her handkerchief to her face, already almost
hidden in the shawl.
*' Oh, I hope you have not taken cold, dear,"
Gertrude said, sympathetically. " I am so sorry
your neuralgia continues to trouble you so
much. The change will do you good, and I
will take such care of you."
"There now, we're off!" exclaimed the chief
warder, returning at that moment and hastily
entering the cab and taking his seat opposite
to Gertrude ; " but it's something to have got
258 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
two middle-aged ladies and all their belongings
safely started. Oh, but it has been a business
v/ith one thing and another !
All right, cabby — station ! And as quietly
as you can go without losing time, as my
daughter has been ill," he added, as if suddenly
awakening to the fact that the cabman was
still standing by the door and waiting for his
The other cab had already started, and no
time was lost in following it. There was all
the rumble and shaking peculiar to a four-
wheeled vehicle of the cab order when ia
motion, and Gertrude did not feel in the mood
to talk, even had the circumstances of the
moment conduced to her doing so. She was
in some way feeling sad at heart, disappointed. -
The removal of the chief warder from the
prison seemed to distance her from Aubrey ;.
while he was there she felt a nearness which
had been of late an untold comfort. Then,
again, the unexpected had not happened. Had
some one called her in when reaching the prison
gates and told her now was her chance for a
few words with her husband, she would have
taken it all quietly ; or, seeing him alone, had
he said to her, Gertrude, I have found a way
of escape, and feel justified, as an innocent
man, in taking it," she would have received
the news joyfully, but without emotion. She
HOW "THE unexpected" HAPPENED 259
had schooled herself to meet the unexpected
when it chanced to come along without display
of feeling. But to be sitting in a cab with
Amy and her father, each moment taking her
further away from Aubrey — this was too terrible
to contemplate. Still, hope was not altogether
non-existent. Perhaps plans would be talked
over concerning Aubrey in this visit to the
farm so kindly arranged for her.
My dear young lady," said the chief warder,
breaking in upon her thoughts, leaning forward,
and speaking in low but very distinct tones,
be prepared for a great surprise. When we
reach the station I am ' hoping you may be
joined by — " he paused and glanced round
uneasily, as if afraid of being overheard.
My husband ! " said Gertrude in a hushed
voiqe, but one literally charged with the elec-
tricity of excitement.
Yes, I have planned that he, not Amy,
goes with you to the farm house ; only until
to-morrow ; it would not be safe to stay longer.
My cousin is in the secret, and all necessary
clothes into which he will, I hope, at once
change on arrival, will be in readiness ; you
will, I quite hope, be able to manage the rest.
Amy accompanies her mother and myself by
the 9.40 express to Bristol, on our way abroad.
Your train starts before ours on the loop line."
But shall I really see him ? How have you
26o THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
managed it ? How has it all come about ? '*
exclaimed Gertrude, in short, jerky sentences ;
she was literally panting for breath in her
** Ah, that is my secret," said the chief
warder, with a little laugh. ''Not even my
wife or Amy knows its mysterious history.
See, here are your two tickets ; I had to be at
the railway this morning, and thought to save
time. When we reach the station you will
carry Amy's wraps, and your bag if you can
manage it, straight into the ladies' waiting-
room. I will come to you when I have got
your husband safely in the train. I will see
you have a carriage to yourselves. Remember,
his safety depends entirely upon your pluck to
go through with everything quietly. You are
only going three stations down the line, to a
place called South Hill ; a private conveyance
will meet you there. The address is Ivy dene
Farm, South Hill, a pleasant drive of five miles.
And now. Amy, when we get to the station
you had better come and get at once into your
train," he said, addressing Amy, who had all
this time been gazing out of the window. We
too," he added, have our parts to play if we
would see ourselves safely on board our steamer
Oh, how I thank you for your help,"
Gertrude said, with streaming eyes, to be
gently silenced by the chief warder's Hush."
HOW ''THE unexpected" HAPPENED 26 1
When the cab drew up at length at the
station, Gertrude did as she was bidden.
Taking Amy's wraps in one hand and her
bag in the other, she started in silence from
So far, so good," the chief warder said to
himself as she hurried off in the direction of the
first-class ladies' waiting-room.
" Now, Amy," he said aloud, " you had better
come and take your seat in the train. See,
your handbag is open again." Amy stepped
down and attended to it, following her father as
directed by a porter to l^o. 7 platform ; less
than five minutes later he sought out Gertrude.
"This way, Miss Huntly, please," he said,
cheerfully, adding when they reached the plat-
form, as he walked by her side, carrying her
bag and Amy's bundle of wraps, *' these rugs
are for you — my daughter's little gift, with her
love. I would we might hope to meet again,
but I fear your only safety will be in hiding
away until things are cleared up. Get into a
city ; change your name ; take matters quietly
and hopefully ; they are bound to come right
some day." He spoke in hushed tones. Then
as they paused before a first-class carriage door
at the end of the train, he grasped her hand.
" God bless you both," he said, in a husky voice,
and before another moment had passed he had
gone, and Gertrude, with trembling footsteps
262 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
and almost sick with excitement and expecta-
tion, mounted the step and entered the com-
partment, the guard coming up at the moment
and locking her in. Glancing nervously into
the far corner, she saw what she believed to be
Amy's muffled figure ; surely it was the same
as the one who had accompanied them in the
Then the truth dawned upon her. She sank
far back into the seat without daring to glance
a second time at the one who was engaged
intently looking out through the window nearest.
The supposed Amy, the last one to come into
the cab, was Aubrey. Even while they sat
thus in silence, Gertrude realised she was in
the presence, not of her mentally strong and
physically vigorous husband, but of a crushed
and broken-spirited man. Poor girl, she had to
experience, as others have done, that sweet
liberty cannot restore all at once that which
captivity has deprived a man of. To a far
greater extent than she had ever deemed
possible, the Aubrey from whom she had
parted barely ten long months ago was only
a wreck of his former self. It is the first few
months and year or two of convict life which
make their deep mark upon a man doing his
"penal service"; the longer the incarceration
the more mechanical the life, and the less
chance of new experiences carving their
HOW *'TfIE unexpected" HAPPENED 263
impressions upon the mind. As the train left
the station she moved into the seat beside him.
" Aubrey ! " she exclaimed, in a tone scarcely-
above a whisper, but there was suppressed joy
and surprise in it.
" Gertrude, my faithful Gertrude," said the
muffled figure, visibly shaking with excitement,
and something like a sob was in his voice.
Their hands met and neither spoke again,
but on the first sign of slackening speed Gertrude
returned to her seat at the other end of the
carriage. After all, the strain of this singular
experience was almost more than she could
bear. Would it be too much for Aubrey? To
relax at all, for them now to lose control of
their feelings, and all would be lost. Oh, for
strength and courage to keep perfectly calm !
Gertrude was scarcely more anxious about a
possible breakdown at this point than was the
one who had laid most carefully the plan of an
innocent man's escape from the convict prison.
The chief warder sat in silence as the Bristol
express bore him and his wife and Amy on
their way to the steamer which was to carry
them from England on the morrow. He alone
was responsible for the scheme, but others
were involved in it; and to all, if once discovered,
it would mean ruin and disgrace. Some one
had to be in the secret that the widowed aunt
whose name was entered in the book as arriving
264 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
at the prison at noon that day, left an hour or
two later without the fact being recorded. The
same some one knew that, whereas the chief
warder's daughter had hurried from the cab in
which she had already taken her seat back to
her father s quarters for her handbag, she had
been personated on the return journey to the
cab by one dressed like herself, she meanwhile
donning a heavy mantle and widow s bonnet,
beneath the deep crape veil of which had been
visible a curled grey fringe, similar to the one
which adorned the brow of the aunt who came
at noontide and left in the early afternoon.
There was another, too, concerned in this
strange rescue of the innocent ; one to whom
had been entrusted the duty of carrying out
plans — no matter of what nature — which would
fix the clue to the escape, when discovered the
following morning, as associated with a drop
from the cell window and a hazardous leap of
several feet, baffling all traces of the missing
man at a time when every hour gained would
be a boon.
No wonder the chief warder again and again,
as the train bore them further away from the
present with all its painful associations, wondered
if "Miss Huntly " would be equal to the strain
imposed upon her, and pictured the dire calamity
for all concerned which must come as a
sequence to discovery."
THE FARM VISITORS
The mistress of Ivydene Farm was watching
impatiently for the arrival of her guests. She
thought it a good thing that the moon was at
its full, and this particular night was clear and
would have been well-lighted by the myriad
stars which were shining so brilliantly. Her
husband was a careful driver, and the small
covered waggon was no weight for the horse.
A thunderstorm in the afternoon had well
laid the dust, and the roads could not be
better for the journey, which ought to be made,
under favourable circumstances, in about forty
minutes. But, calculating the train had been
fairly punctual, they had been nearly an hour
and a quarter. What could have happened ?
Had something taken place to upset the
wonderfully well-planned scheme ?
Mrs. Sheppard had *'gone cold and hot"
many times that day when picturing the con-
sequences to all concerned of a breakdown.
But she had great faith in her cousin, the chief
warder, and faith in his faith in that plucky
little wife who had played the prison chapel
266 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
organ last Sunday week. No fear of her nerve
failing her ; but what would he be like ? Her
cousin had often told her that prison life
knocked the strongest into bits, particularly
where it chanced to be some one of good birth
who was the prisoner. Supposing No. 75 had
fainted in the train, or had a fit just as he was
getting out, or —
What rubbish to bother one's head about
the might -he's which never happen in real
life ! " she mused. It's best to take things
as they come — a day at a time, as mother used
to say, bless her! and that cut up into hours
and moments! I think I'll go and wash
through those towels. Eliza starts early to-
morrow — if it isn't to-morrow already ; it's best
to be busy if one would keep one's-self in good
spirits," and good Mrs. Sheppard bustled about
and got her washing-tub out into the back-
yard, putting it in its accustomed place on a
large, flat stone.
She was proceeding to tuck up her sleeves,
having put a large apron over the good dress
with which she had clothed herself in honour
to her guests, prior to baling out the water
from a rain-tub close at hand, for practical
Mrs. Sheppard knew that a good day's wash
could be got through in an emergency in cold
rain water far better than in semi-warm water,
which housewives called ''cruelly hard." She
THE FARM VISITORS
had just reached this stage when she heard
Dobbin's measured tread coming along the
well-made high road, off which one had to
turn to reach the farm.
All my preparations for nothing ! " she said
to herself, whisking off her apron and fastening
lier gown cuff sleeves in eager haste, and then
she laughed. ''No, it s not been lost time,"
she mused, ''for I've kept my nerves steady
by being busy. I may need them to be strong
before I've sent my guests well on their
As she came round to the front, the clatter
of the waggon on the gravel road towards the
house sounded quite pleasant. A little nearer
and her husband whistled three times shrilly.
This had been the arranged signal if the unex-
pected had happened, and Molly was to be
what her Tom Sheppard called " extra special
on her guard."
"I've picked Inspector Benson up coming
along, Molly," her husband called out as he
reined in Dobbin at the gate. "Take him in
and give him a bit of supper, while I help the
young ladies out ! "
"So I will," said Mrs. Sheppard, brightly.
" Come along, inspector, you'll be wanting to
get on your way. I'll come back to you in a
minute or two, dear girls," she called back over
her shoulder, and she hastened the policeman
into the house.
268 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
** I say, it was just my good luck," exclaimed
the inspector as he stepped in long strides by
the side of the farmers wife. '*Your good
husband does happen to give me a lift more
often than not when I come this road, market
nights, between eight and nine, but this doesn't
happen to be market night, and it's nearer mid-
night than nine o'clock, so I say it was all my
I know my Tom is always glad to oblige
you," said Mrs. Sheppard, brightly, ''and I can
tell you there's no one I like better to entertain,
especially when you're not in a hurry, for then
you give me some of your nice tales ; they're
better than the ghost stories I tell my husband."
By this time they had entered the house and
passed into the little sitting-room in which the
fragrance of roses, standing in high old-
fashioned vases on the mantelshelf, and the
less fragrant oil of a paraffin lamp placed on
the centre of the supper table, were in the
fulfilment of each special mission strangely
suggesting that life's experiences were in-
I expect I've the beginning of a good
story in my hands to-night," he said, sitting
down and passing his handkerchief over his
forehead moist with heat.
Indeed, now, have you really ? " said Mrs.
Sheppard, pausing at the door -just as she was
THE FARM VISITORS
leaving the room to return to "the girls,"
sending her husband in to look after his friend.
Come, do tell us."
Well, it's only the start you see," said
the inspector, smiling and well pleased with
his hostess' good appetite for his strange
tales. I was just leaving our office at South
Hill when we got a wire. Bless me, it's
known all over England by this time. * Con-
vict escaped ; tall, fair, blue eyes ; dropped
thirty feet from his cell window ; not in much
trim for going far afield ; No. 75 ' "
" Oh, how you startle me ! " exclaimed Molly
Sheppard, whose face had grown almost livid
in hue. Dearly as I love to hear your tales,
I never sleep for a night or two after you've
told me them. I suppose it's my sympathetic
nature ; don't you ? But don't say anything
before my nieces. Amy's had a dreadful
illness ; and the child has no nerve. As to
Arabella, she's strong enough for anything ;
you needn't mind ker. Excuse my running
off. I'll send my husband in to you. Help
yourself to whatever you find on the table,"
and the active little woman had run off, leaving
the inspector more than ever struck with her
Come, my dear girls, but you do look as if
you needed a wash. Tired, are you, poor
Amy ? " he heard her say as they passed the
270 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
wide-open window. Then the farmer came in,
and the young ladies were conducted upstairs
to their room.
Mrs. Sheppard quickly rejoined them, and
she brought Arabella with her.
"Amy is completely done up," she said,
looking anxiously towards her husband. I
am sending her up a little supper ; I have
coaxed her to go to bed at once."
I thought she was unusually silent for a
young lady," ventured the inspector, ''as we
came along. I noticed this young lady did
most of the talking."
" Oh, nothing ails Arabella," said Mrs. Shep-
pard, briskly. Put her to walk ten miles and
she would return as energetic as she started,
but Amy quite outgrew her strength as a girl,
and she is always a little bit of an invalid."
" She will soon get all right in this glorious
air," said the inspector, warmly. Then he
divided his attention between the farmer and
"If you chance to get any stray hands cater-
ing for a job, keep them, and send for me,"
he said, as he imported into his mouth almost
the fourth of a lettuce.
" Looking for some one ? " said the farmer,
watching the masterly ease with which the
inspector reduced the imprisoned lettuce be-
tween his massive jaws.
THE FARM VISITORS
''Yes, an escaped convict," he replied, and
proceeded to give Mr. Sheppard the particu-
lars he had already given his wite.
'' Poor beggar," said the farmer, sympa-
thetically, ''I'd give him a fair start before
you look for him. He'd be a bit stiff and sore
after such a drop, if he hasn't sprained an
ankle or two ! "
" One's compelled to go through with one's
duty," answered the inspector, *'or we might
find ourselves in durance vile. But it isn't a
pleasant task, I can tell you, to run to earth a
poor chap who's sick with joy in getting free.
I remember a bitter night the first winter I
came here. We'd had a wire at the office as it
might be to-night, and my mate and me — we
lodged together, that's how we got a bit friendly,
you see — made off our different ways with our
eyes well front for what might happen. Well,
we'd only been parted at the most twenty
minutes when who should I see before me,
walking on the roadway, but a poor creature of
a fellow who was just walking in a broken
circle. Now, you would have said he had had
a drop too much and couldn't go straight. But
oh, no ! it wasn't that at all ; he simply couldn't
keep line because he had been accustomed to
his daily march round and round yon prison
courtyard. I spotted him in a moment — you
can always tell a convict by his walk — and I
272 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
went up to him as gently as I could go all in'^a
rush, and put my hand on his shoulder. He'd
got an old wide-awake well down over his ears,
but it didn't hide his closely cropped hair in
front. And, oh, my ! what piteous eyes turned
to me as I said, * Now, what's your business
here ? You know where you ought to be.'
* Oh, do give me a chance, sir ; I beg you
let me go,' he said with a voice as sweet as a
woman's ; 'another mile and I'm safe. I've an
old grandmother living in the gamekeeper's
lodge at Park Woods, and she'd die before she
gave me up — she would indeed, sir.'
" * What's that to me?' I said, trying to speak
sharp, but I could have cried — those eyes were
just like my dead Maggie's — when — "
*'When what.'^" asked the farmer, for both
his wife and Arabella were by this time in
*' Well," continued the inspector, clearing his
throat, '' my bootlace broke. It just snapped in
two, leaving me with a loose uncomfortable boot
which would have fallen off I do believe if I
had attempted to walk on there and then
without remedying matters. So I stooped down
and attended to it ; and, would you believe it ?
when I had got it tied together and made to do,
somehow that fellow, with my Maggie's eyes,
had gone — clean gone out of sight ; and as
things would happen, a man came along riding
THE FARM VISITORS
a bike without a light, and by the time I had
stopped him and taken his address I had I knew
no chance of catching up the youngster."
Did you never hear what became of him ? "
inquired the farmer, brushing his coat sleeve
over his eyes and looking as if the story had
deeply touched him.
''Never!" was the reply. "To the best of
my knowledge I don't think he was ever
caught. Once I thought I'd go and see the
old grandmother in the woods, but there, you
see, a busy man like me has no time for society
calls. I must be off now, or I'll have a very
meagre report to give in about my search for
No. 75. He'll not get far after that drop. It
shakes them up above a bit, and he'll be very
stiff to-morrow." Then the inspector hurried
off and Mr. and Mrs. Sheppard and "Arabella"
sat looking at each other with white, scared
"He will call in the morning, he is bound to
do," said the farmer, the first to find his voice ;
" and the next day and the next."
"Then," said Mrs. Sheppard, "the best
thing for poor Amy will be to keep her in bed
for a week or two. Nothing requiring the
doctor, but a bad attack of neuralgia com-
pletely prostrating her. We will send the maid
away to-morrow for a holiday ; she has long
wanted the chance of visiting a married sister
2 74 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
And upon this ''Arabella" went upstairs to
"Amy" and gave "her" a detailed report of
all that had taken place. Then, too terrified to
have a light, they sat together by the window
with hands clasped, and talked far on into the
night of all the future held in store for them so
soon as Aubrey's good name was cleared.
And the days which followed were full of
peace in spite of occasional anxiety lest the
inspector should chance to call. As a matter
of fact, beside a few words with the farmer at
a distance remote from the house, he did not
chance again to come that way.
Aubrey appreciated the good food, more
especially the bountiful supply of milk and
eggs, and the comfortable bed which he was
glad to keep for the few days which had
followed his escape. The improvement in his
looks was marked. And as his hair grew and
his skin resumed something of its soft and
healthy glow, he became much more pre-
sentable in appearance. The clothes sent
were a tourist suit of grey tweed, with a cap
to match. The first day he donned these the
farmer grew anxious lest the talk should get
about that their house gave hospitality to one
of such high bearing.
Hence they planned a day or two's longer
holiday for the servant, and before her return
"the visitors" had gone. Mr. Sheppard had
THE FARM VISITORS
driven them to a station some fourteen miles
away, having lent his guests a few pounds to
begin life upon, and begging them to take
their own time in repaying it. Within six
months he had the loan returned, with a letter,
every line of which breathed gratitude ; no
address was given, the writer saying, until
the dawn of the long -hoped -for day which
should right the wrong, they knew they must
hide even from their friends if they wished to
Meanwhile Gertrude, when first in London,
had begged her luggage to be forwarded to a
governess' institute, writing to Miss Marshall
to explain her movements by stating the fact
of her marriage.
''You will be surprised to hear," she said,
that I am married. My beloved husband is
a man worthy of highest honour. We are
not too well off just now, but if you think it
right for me to sacrifice a month's salary in
lieu of notice, my husband is quite willing for
me to do so."
To which suggestion Miss Marshall made
" I could not hear of your doing anything of
the sort. Of course we are very sorry to lose
you, and, I must allow, I think your marriage
hurried ; but I read between the lines that you
had been engaged for a long time, and I am
276 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
quite sure your husband deserves to be con-
gratulated. I suppose, as you give me the
name of Huntly, you must have married a
cousin ? "
To this day Miss Marshall has never had
this suggestion on her part set right.
''DOWN ON HIS luck"
It is a terrible thing to be hopeless and home-
less in a great city where all too plainly the
apostolic dictum, **No man liveth unto himself,"
is fairly well set at naught and contradicted,
turn which way you will. It is interesting to
study character under these conditions. If a
man be far on in years he talks incessantly
about the past, lighting up the darkness of his
present lot by throwing in a little sunshine
created by pleasant reflections. Thus the other
day an apparent tramp, begging, quietly let it
be admitted, his night's lodging of a passing
stranger, when questioned about his up-to-date
history, summed it up in a word or two,
''awfully down on my luck," but talked glibly
of the days when he got his articles into the
evening papers, and the pleasure of taking
one's seat at the reporters' table, and the excite-
ment of producing good copy. He had had no
dinner that day, and apparently there was no
night's lodging in view, and the stony streets
might be his portion to tramp from darkness to
dawn ; but all the same he got a very fair
278 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
amount of complete enjoyment out of tales he
told of the ''had beens," and alluded quite
incidentally to the fact that his father was once
rector in a seaport town.
A younger man, one who is too near his past
to see it in the pleasant focus which invites
reflection, is far more inclined to be bitter and
full of complaint. He invariably poses as a
martyr. It is some one else's fault, not his own,
that his life has been a failure. But if every
one had his rights he would be enjoying at
the present moment a fortune which drifted
away from him to ''a fellow who had not the
slightest claim upon it," and so forth. His
mind is full of self-pity and bitter comment.
Perhaps the class most to be commiserated is
that associated with still younger men who have
made a hurried ride to ruin, and are, as it were,
still out of breath with their adventure ; to
whom the excitement of wrong-doing never
tracked home presents fascinations of a kind
which keeps a quickened pulse and means
spurts of speculative enterprise in the direction
of a particular bent.
These are the fools who say in their heart,
''There is no God." All one to them the sins
and shortcomings of life, so long as they are not
called upon to answer for their wrong-doing.
Let only another opportunity present itself, and
they are ready for it.
DOWN ON HIS LUCK "
Of this class and kind was Stanley Pritchard.
All the same, he was practically homeless, and
up to a certain point hopeless. The senior
partner had found him out. Buncer knew him
to be a hypocrite. He had been left without an
alternative. There was nothing for it but to
abscond before worse luck followed him. Cer-
tainly no one suspected him of the forgery ; nor
would they be likely to. What object could he
have had ? As every one knew, he had won
considerable sums at cards at that time, and was
actually investing three hundred pounds at the
very time of the trial, monies he had won, as
witnesses had proved in the senior partner's
presence only the week before the date of the
Still, that was quite eighteen months ago,
and the pounds had Ipng since dwindled to
shillings and the shillings to pence, and to-day
his pockets were empty, while he was ''on the
look-out" for an odd job of work. True, he
inight have gone abroad to his people, but he
would rather starve in England than grow rich
in the colonies ; why this was so was best
known to himself.
So to-day he must, by hook or by crook, find
something to do, for he had actually spent his
last penny, and he already owed various borrow-
ings to friends who had once been willing to lend
him small sums to tide over " a great need.
2 8o THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
Halloa, Shafto, where have you sprung
from ? " he asked, suddenly addressing a young
man whom he chanced to come face to face
with just at the juncture of Fleet Street and
the Strand. The young man in question was
neatly dressed, but his coat was white at the
seams, and his necktie (green and gold — a good
one, doubtless, in the days of its youth) had that
indescribable twist about it which suggests it
had been tied once too often.
Stanley read at a glance that his old chum
of former days, the one who had been sum-
marily dismissed from Catchpool Brothers after
troubles which had threatened his own safe
standing in connection with the firm, was very
decidedly *'down on his luck." He was quite
prepared for the candiH admission, for Cyril
Shafto made no secret of his up-to-date history
when chance threw them together.
''Yes, I'm a bit under water just now," was
the reply, **but I've the promise of work if I
keep clear of drink for six months, four of
which are nearly over — a clerkship which will
put me on my feet again; and I'm having a
real struggle for it, so you won't tempt to treat
a fellow now, will you ? "
The sentence wound up so pathetically that
even Stanley was touched.
Never fear," he said, warmly, I only wish
I had half your chances. I was never lower
DOWN ON HIS luck"
down than now ; my people have all gone
abroad, so I can't play the penitent prodigal
any more; I'm on my own resources entirely,
and I'm penniless and wanting a job. Don't
you think they might find an office stool for me
beside yours, Shafto ? only, as I'm not on
probation, I could go at once."
Shafto shook his head, then suddenly a smile
passed over his face.
If you really mean you're wanting a job
to-day, and don't mind what, I think I could
put you in the way of earning two-and-sixpence,
and as work goes, better paid than some ; but
are you joking, or are you in earnest ? "
I'm in dead earnest," said Stanley. I
spent my last shilling on a substantial break-
fast, not knowing where the next meal was to
come from. Even two shillings and sixpence
will not come amiss ; say a shilling for a bed
somewhere, and ninepence for a good supper ;
to-morrow will have to take care of itself, with
the few coppers in hand to start it."
Then come with me into Chancery Lane ;
I'm just fetching my work from a Despatching
Agent, and I can promise you some too."
But you haven't told me the kind of work
it is yet ? " said Stanley, turning round and
linking his arm in that of his friend's.
Addressing envelopes — very straightfor-
282 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
ward. Some people only pay 2s. 3d. a
thousand, but my employer gives 2s. 6d."
And do you work on the premises, may
I ask ? " said Stanley, who, as he spoke, saw
visions of his old home, and remembered
certain teaching of which he, by^a wave of
thought, was at that moment reminded — The
way of transgressors is hard." True, and a
great mountain of transgression stood between
the boy Stanley riding his Shetland pony in
his father's meadows and the young man who
to-day was seriously contemplating earning
2s. 6d. by addressing a thousand envelopes.
No, we fetch our work," replied Shafto ;
and there's a men's lodging-house in Drury
Lane where you are allowed — that is, if you
lodge there — to use a good common room, with
a long table well supplied with pens and ink."
Could a fellow take his work there ? " asked
Certainly, if you come with me and hint
that you will want a bed for a night or two.
It is very decent as things go ; and if you
keep yourself to yourself, you might as well be
there as anywhere else."
So it was agreed, and within half an hour
from that time Stanley found himself earning
an honest penny in a way which was entirely
new to him. He did far too much staring
about him to make quick progress with his
**DOWN ON HIS luck" 283
work. Shafto reminded him that he would
^ need all his wits about him to get through
his thousand envelopes, and deliver them
before the office closed at which they were
due that evening.
Thus admonished, Stanley kept his eyes well
on his work. Then a slight cough, from a man
at the lower end of the table, sitting on the
opposite side, caused him to look up hastily.
The next moment and turning a white face
towards his friend Shafto, Stanley said in a
whisper, "Who on earth is that fellow? It's the
ghost of a man I know — Shafto, tell me what
his name is."
*T tell you I know no one here," said Shafto,
never lifting his eyes from his work, *'and
don't talk. If you can't help, don't hinder, as
the copy-books say. If you mean to laze it, I
must get my thousand done nevertheless."
But," continued Stanley, who all the time
cast fitful glances in the direction of the other
end of the table, I tell you I must know. I
could never work a jot with that face haunting
me. Shafto, that man sitting there is as like as
two peas to a man now serving his time in a
convict prison. No, man, I tell you it's not his
brother, for he hadn't one. If it's not his ghost,
" Hush, he'll hear you," said the indefatigable
Shafto, still writing on mechanically, his eyes
284 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
fixed upon a book of addresses which lay open
In his excitement Stanley had raised his
voice, and the stranger at the end of the table
turned his way, and, was it fancy? grew very
red. Then he rose quickly from his seat and
left the room.
What mad impulse possessed Stanley at that
moment to go after him ? It was only to find
him hastily quitting the lodging-house. There
was no fancy about it now; the fact was clear
enough. The man, Pritchard thought to be
Aubrey, did not like his observation.
Once outside the door and he ran ; Stanley,
bent on clearing up the mystery, ran too, giving
chase. As they neared Charing Cross Road he
came sufficiently up with him to call, with the
hope of being heard, Rice, Aubrey Rice,
stop ! " he exclaimed ; but his breathlessness
through running, as also his agitation, gave a
harshness to his tones. No one would have
thought it was a friendly voice which called ;
least of all the man who fled from his pursuer.
Then there was a pause, a lumbering dray
cart getting in the way, and before Stanley
could continue his pursuit the man he followed
was out of sight.
*'Well, that beats everything I have ever
heard by way of romance," said Stanley to
himself, as he turned back with the full
"DOWN ON HIS luck" 285
intention of retreating his steps to the lodging-
house where he had left Shafto. What's he
doing out of prison at this time ? The thing's
pretty clear ; he's bolted, found his opportunity
and taken it, and of course it's the last thing he
wants to happen to meet an old friend like me.
Well, I never did though ! Poor chap, what
a come down to his pride, and — and — well, it
was rather a shame to corner him over that
forgery business. 'Pon my word, if he had been
civil to me to-day, who knows, I might have
dropped him a hint. But there, Stanley
Pritchard, what's the meaning of this? you
are getting too soft-hearted. You are not
going to be fool enough to find quarters for
yourself in a convict prison ! Well, . . .
goodness alive ! — I never did — so it's really
you, Judith ! And, please, what may you want
of me ? "
This last remark was addressed openly, as
Stanley came to a sudden stop, to a little lady
in furs who at that moment stood still and
placed her hand on his arm.
I am so thankful I met you, Stanley ! " she
exclaimed, and her breath came and went
fitfully. " I have returned to England on pur-
pose for an interview with you."
''After promising never to trouble me again,"
Stanley said, but not unkindly. The fact was
he had, while meditating upon Aubrey, made
286 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCE
Up his mind not to return to the lodging-house
where he had left Shafto lest he should be
betrayed into making a confession in reference
to the forgery case, and this being so, he was
wondering where his next meal was to come
from. The appearance of Judith upon the
scene gave a hopeful suggestion about the
settlement of that question. So much was he
taken up with the surprise of seeing the man
he had wronged that his wife's sudden appear-
- ance he treated rather as a matter of course.
" Have you dined yet ? " his wife asked in
very natural tones, as if to meet her husband
in this way were an everyday occurrence.
No, but I just feel as if I would like to,"
was Stanley's reply ; that is," he added, if
I were invited out to dinner. I've overdrawn
my bank account, and I'm what you might call
hard up just now."
Well, give me the pleasure of inviting you
to a meal," said Judith, brightly. "Where
shall we go ? This is quite a strange neigh-
bourhood to me."
''If you are not ashamed to be seen walking
beside me, we will get into the Strand. There
are plenty of places there. I hope you have
in mind something more substantial than an
''Certainly," said Judith, briskly, "if you let
me off with a five-shilling dinner, I shall feel I
**DOWN ON HIS luck"
have done well. Let it be understood it is not
to include alcoholic drinks, for since leaving
England I have never touched them, and never
mean to again."
Humph, now that's what I call mean," said
Stanley, laughing softly to himself, "just when
I had longed, too, for a glass of whisky. Oh,
Judith, don't be hard upon a chap. I'm quite
a moderate drinker, I assure you, but to give
up everything in this way is too much to ask,
when you have already promised to spend more
on my dinner to-day than I sometimes manage
to spend in a week." Stanley's tones were
full of banter.
Judith, however, remained firm, and the
conversation was changed.
You're tired of your life alone?" Stanley
ventured a moment or two later. What do you
say to our setting up housekeeping together
again? I'm willing if you are."
Judith shook her head solemnly. No," she
said, sorrowfully, "I must see the wrong righted
in other directions before I willingly choose to
trust my happiness to the keeping of an unscru-
pulous man. What about Mr. Aubrey Rice
having been brought up on the charge of jforgery,
Stanley ? I don't believe for a moment he was
Then, pray, who was ? " said Pritchard,
angrily. ''How can you know anything about
t ? You were abroad at the time it happened."
288 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
"I know I was," replied Judith, "and that
accounts for my not coming to you for an
explanation earlier. I missed seeing the
English papers at that time, and only by chance
read about the trial six weeks ago in an old
paper in which something had been wrapped up.
I saw what you said in evidence and noticed
your words went further to condemn him than
any one else."
**And what if they did? It was a mere
chance that I happened to be in possession of
facts about which others were ignorant. You
did not expect me to hold my tongue .^^ I spoke
in the interests of the Firm."
I am not quite clear you did not speak in
your own," said Judith, looking up very earnestly
into his face, *'and that is what I have come
home to England about. I could not rest for
thinking that the ^500 you brought me had
somehow something to do with that calamitous
" You can make your mind quite happy,
Judith. I took your advice. and borrowed the
money you wanted. Nothing was easier, and if
it had been twice the sum I should have had no
difficulty about getting it."
I wish I could believe it," said Judith,
Perhaps you will be able to do so after
a good dinner. See, here we are at a famous
"down on his luck"
" Then, if you will excuse me, I will leave you
to order your own," the little lady remarked
drily. After all, I have no appetite at this
moment. Here are ten shillings to provide
you with enough and to spare, not only for the
present moment but for one or two days to
come, I hope. There, good-bye, I must go now.
It has taken me nearly a month to find you.
Where can I write if anything unforeseen
happens ? "
Care of the man in the moon," said Stanley,
with a little laugh. " That is the nearest
address I can give you. I am here, there, and
everywhere, according to the state of finances.
Ta-ta ! "
But," said Judith, still hesitating to take
her dismissal without securing an address which
would keep her in touch with Stanley, do you
not think, while * your account at the bank ' is
* overdrawn,' you would be glad to look for an
occasional letter which might help you to get a
dinner should you be requiring one ? "
She put the question naively, and there was
not an atom of irony in tone or manner.
There's something in what you say," replied
Stanley. Well then, you can at any time
find me by addressing a letter to a certain
tobacconist shop which stands half-way down
a street leading off yonder," and he pointed in
the direction, giving at the same time the name
of the street. 'Pon my word, Judith, but if
290 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
you like to write me a sensible letter every
week, I should be glad of it. I've been awfully
wretched lately, what with one thing or another,
though I don't just know why I'm going to tell
you about it."
I should start life afresh if I were you,
Stanley," Judith said, with evident effort.
" Make up your mind to do what you learnt
as a child in your catechism — * to be true and
just in all your dealings.' "
Thank you, when I want a lecture of that
sort I will come to you for it," interrupted
Stanley, hotly. " I am as good as you any
day, only my sins are all on the outside and
yours are below the surface."
A look of real pain came into Judith's face.
Don't let us quarrel," she said, almost
humbly. If we do now and again chance to
meet, let it be in peace, Stanley. I am not
setting myself up as a saint, but I have begun
to see the error of my ways," and with that she
was gone, leaving Stanley Pritchard gazing
after her in astonishment.
Poor Judith, what a good little wife she
would have made a right sort of husband. It's
a pity we never could quite hit it off," he mused
as he turned into the eating-house near which
they had been standing, and ordered a very
Meanwhile Judith hastened into a passing
omnibus on its way to Westminster. She
"DOWN ON HIS luck"
longed for the quiet of the Abbey ; its dignified
and holy silence soothed her chafed spirit.
Daily since her return to England she had
found her opportunity of spending a quiet hour
within the sacred precincts, so much had
happened of late to quell her haughty spirit
and put her uncompromising behaviour to her
husband, when first discovering he was other
than she had been led to believe him to be, in
its true light. Were not her sins of temper as
wrong in God's sight as Stanley's apparently
greater moral discrepancies ? Were there no
points in his history, possibly associated with
his antecedents, which made excuse for his
weakness of character, while, in her case, did
she not hold as her own a vigorous moral, as
also physical, nature ? Could she find excuse
for her own shortcomings through lack of home
training or inherited foibles ? Stanley had more
than once alluded to his father's drinking habits ;
was there no connection between these and his
own failures in life ? While thinking thus,
Judith had found reason to bewail her readiness
to let her husband drift from her, the troubles
which eventually separated them being, she felt
sure to-day, as much of her own making as of
his, while with her rested the larger responsi-
True, she had been ruthlessly deceived ; but
was it not Stanley's way to deceive ? He had
not treated her other than he had treated the
292 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
world generally. She blamed herself for accept-
ing his word so readily, when common sense
urged the need of inquiry proportionate to the
seriousness of the cause involved.
These reflections had softened Judith's heart
very much towards her husband, whom she had
never ceased to love. On her way home from
abroad, impelled by the desire to clear up her
anguished doubts in connection with the forgery
case, she had met with those who had for the
first time in her life represented to her in human
form (which she could scrutinise closely and
without detraction) the religion of Christ.
Few words were spoken directly upon the
matter, but Judith received impressions which
would never be obliterated ; indeed, which
became all unconsciously woven into her own
inner life. They were possibly the initial cause
of her daily visits to the Abbey. Her heart
hungered for something it did not possess.
Her eyes were searching for the Light, glints
of which had come to her in the lives of her
fellow-travellers from abroad. It was many
years afterwards that she first saw Tennyson's
lines, which she claimed as representing exactly
her own condition at the time of which we
And what am I ?
An infant crying in the night,
An infant crying for the light,
And with no language but a cry.
EIGHT THOUSAND EMPTY CHAIRS
It was a dull November evening. The rain
had been drizzling all day with the indefinite
persistence which has been likened to the irri-
tating nagging of a bad-tempered person whose
outbursts of passion would be accounted infinite
The East End of London was looking miser-
ably, hopelessly black and dirty, but it did not
mean, as it might have done in a clean little
market town for instance in the provinces, that
streets were deserted, and business practically
suspended until the morrow. Far from it ; the
depressing state of the weather meant to that
particular neighbourhood, seeking in the open
street what the pitiless so-called home could not
give, temporary deliverance from the sickening
heat of just such a night indoors.
You who live in well-built houses, let alone
substantial mansions, where ceiling and floor
have at least from twelve to fifteen feet between
them, and ventilation, however imperfect, makes
it easy to breathe without being conscious of the
fact that you have to do so, you cannot form
294 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
any idea of the suffering of the ill-housed
poor, those to whom the conditions of living
come perilously near to a healthy mind's con-
ception of that place, peopled by fallen angels,
about which those who have been in the world
half a century heard more in their childhood
than they do to-day. Do the poor never get
used to this state of things ? Yes, in a measure,
and this is the pity of it. This is where the
difficulty comes in of redeeming them from the
physical and moral depression of their lives.
They are accustomed to the polluted atmo-
sphere which is so full of power to injure, and
whereas, at one time they might have cried,
For pity's sake, help us," it is quite possible
to-day to change that cry with one of resentment
of interference, Let us alone, what have we to
do with thee ? "
Oh, for public opinion to cry down the high
rents and insanitary dwellings which hang a
millstone round the necks of our struggling
poor from the very day of their birth into this
world ! It has too long, been left to the private
conscience of individual landlords to regulate
the price which the poor have to pay for the
doubtful, to them, privilege of living. Surely
the day has come when a civilised people, to
say nothing of a Christian people, will insist
that all have equal rights of breathing space,
regardless of position or status.
EIGHT THOUSAND EMPTY CHAIRS 295
The world still scoffingly asks with Cain of
old, **Am I my brother's keeper?" It is for
Christian England to reply, *'No, not his keeper,
but your brother's brother."
Still, this is all by the way, and apology must
be made for the digression which arose while
explaining that a wet November night did not
mean deserted streets in the locality in which
we find Guy Manville, the future Lord Horrick,
and his friend Hugh Watson who had driven
from the West End in a private hansom as far
as Stepney station, and who now found them-
selves on foot making their way, as directed
by a policeman, to the substantial temporary
building in which Moody and Sankey were
. holding their, by this time, far-famed evan-
It does credit to your perseverance, if not
to your taste, Manville," said Guy's companion,
picking his way through the puddles as
delicately as his patent-leather-clad feet would
suggest was, under the circumstances, wise.
Think of foregoing the opera for a ' show ' of
this kind ; what would Lady Harriet say if she
knew ? "
My mother is good enough to think well
of my wisdom wherever displayed," said Guy,
laughing. She is not troubled with nervous
fears about my chosen pastimes. It will be all
one to her, if I amuse myself rationally, where-
ever I go."
296 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
Then you admit you came here to-night
purely for amusement ? "
No, not purely ; I think curiosity shares the
honour of bringing me this way. I am so
really interested to know what eight thousand
empty chairs look like. The idea fascinates
me. Of course one gets accustomed to the
thought of hundreds, but think what thousands
Guy s companion laughed. " But, my dear
fellow, how are you going to see them empty if
there's a service going on ? Has your artistic
mind grasped the fact that the great unwashed
will be there in abundance ? This man Moody
has a marvellous following, so the papers say.
He is a born conjuror. He makes much out of
nothing, and gets his audience to believe in him
Perhaps," said Guy, " they will not flock in
great numbers to-night. The weather does not
certainly suggest comfort in a wooden building
of huge dimensions. If we chance to find it
full, we can but wait until the end and see it
cleared. I mean to gratify my curiosity, and
look at those eight thousand chairs."
They were passing Stepney Church at the
time, and it was striking eight, a fact which
made the two friends quicken their steps.
'*As well to be there when the curtain rises
and see the full play," said Guy s friend, with a
latent sneer in his tones.
EIGHT THOUSAND EMPTY CHAIRS 297
" Yes, just as well," was his companion's
reply. Half a crown in the collection ought
to pay the expense from the start. By the
way, I wonder if we should have had tickets of
admission ? "
At that moment the flaring gaslights of the
street stalls and the Buy, buy, buy " given
with marked nasal intonation by the persistent
salesmen, the glare of a near public-house
packed to overflowing, the little crowd waiting
its turn to pass in collected at the door, the
dejected, slip-shod walk of bedraggled women
and men wearing their characters in their faces
— failed, missed the mark, what's the use of
life to us ? " — the sight literally appalled Guy
Manville, stereotyping itself for ever upon
a mind prepared by natural sympathy and
generous desire to alleviate trouble, to receive
lasting impressions of this kind.
" Like to take a flat and settle amongst
these natives ? " asked Hugh, with an irrepres-
sible sneer, as the two paused and gazed about
them. Did you ever see more horrible
products of drink and disaster ? Poor beggars,
most of them doubtless born and bred to it."
But Guy Manville was paying no attention
to his friend's remark ; he had turned aside,
addressed by a lady wearing the dress of
deaconess or nurse, perhaps it was a little of
both, for Dora Thatchet had simply adopted
298 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
a dress for her East End ministrations
which was as unlike as possible to the pretty-
garb of fashion's choosing which she usually
wore in the West End. She found it was a
sure protection to be clothed in garments which
gave her in a way a right to the name of
sister," and even her stately aunt of Berkeley
Square was quite happy in the child," as she
called her favourite niece, " taking herself off
to Stepney and the farther East thus attired.
No one could be rude or ill-mannered to
such an apparition."
Dora was holding up some tickets to Guy.
Will you accept a ticket for JVIr. Moody's
meeting? Perhaps you are on your way
there ? No admission without tickets for
another half-hour," she said, glancing at her
watch as she spoke.
We are on our way," said Guy, very much
struck with the simple and unaffected manners
of the beautiful girl who was speaking to him.
Curiosity brings us from the West End to
spy out the land and see for ourselves what
sort of a man this prophet is of whom the
whole world of London raves to-day."
And the empty chairs," said Hugh, giving
Guy a friendly rap with the handle of his
umbrella. The rain had cleared some few
minutes previously, and the umbrellas had been
EIGHT THOUSAND EMPTY CHAIRS 299
Yes," laughingly continued Guy, I own
I have a curiosity to see 8000 chairs side by
side in rows — empty, you know."
Empty?" said Dora Thatchet, laughing;
well, you must make haste and get a seat on
the platform, and wait until the service closes.
See, I have tickets for workers," and she dived
eagerly into her little hand-bag and brought out
tickets of another colour than those already
But we are not workers, and so not entitled
to seats on the platform, I fear," said Guy,
and there was a ring of sincere regret in his
Dora s face shadowed, but only for a moment.
The next she smiled very brightly upon Guy,
and she said, " I see you have yet to awake to
your privileges. But Mr. Moody will tell you
all about it. I owe so much to him, you must
forgive my impulsiveness," she added, redden-
ing ; I never knew what it was to be really
happy until Mr. Moody taught me to read my
Bible aright. Good night, I must hasten on
with my tickets."
She was moving away hurriedly when Guy
said, But please give us our two wherever you
think we may hope to find room and to hear
I think you must go to the platform after all,"
she said, smiling through what seemed to be
300 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
some tear-filled eyes. "All the near seats in
the body of the building will be taken. A few
are always reserved on the platform for late-
comers — -friends of workers,'' she added, almost
playfully. If you do not mind taking my
name with you as your passport, you will be
admitted all right. Please say, * friends of Sister
Dora,' " and with that she sped on her way,
leaving Guy with two workers' tickets in his
hand, and in his heart — a memory.
It was only a few moments later when the
two friends took their seats to Mr. Moody's left
on the very spacious platform provided for the
choir and workers. It was a little while before
Guy realised that theirs was the choir side ,*
indeed, that he and Hugh occupied two chairs
in the seats left for the tenors. It was quite an
accident, but, the two chairs being vacant, it
was natural for the steward to take them to
them. Two of Sankey's hymn books with
music were on the chairs ; hence, being there^
it was also quite natural for the two young men
to join in the hymns.
Guy chanced to have a good tenor voice, but
his friend was no musician, and was inclined to
laugh to himself over the misfitting position he
was called to occupy.
Meanwhile Guy was moved immensely as he
gazed down from the platform upon a sea of
upturned faces. It appeared as if the but
EIGHT THOUSAND EMPTY CHAIRS 3OI
dimly-lighted building was full from end to end.
Great care had been taken to seat the people
closely, crowds being always expected ; but as
a matter of fact there were several seats still
vacant at the back, chairs which would be
quickly filled by the non-ticket-holders as soon
as the time came to open the doors to them.
The hymn which Moody was giving out
when Guy and his friend reached the platform
was one quite unfamiliar to the young men, but,
by the eager way in which the people took up
the chorus, evidently a favourite one with the
The choir sang the refrain in clear and
beautifully harmonised voices —
Weary wanderer, stop and listen,
Happy news we bring to thee,
Jesus has prepared a banquet,
Come, and welcome thou shalt be.
And the people took up the chorus with spirit —
Make no longer vain excuses,
Jesus calls and calls thee now ;
Come, for everything is ready.
Weary soul, why waitest thou?
Never before had Guy listened to singing
such as this. It was pre-eminently musical in
spite of its homeliness. It was absolutely
inspiring in the sudden swelling tide of appeal
which the chorus suggested.
302 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
As he sang out the last lines of the chorus,
twice repeated at the closing verse,
Weary soul, why waitest thou?
something very like a mist came over his eyes
as he murmured to himself as he took his seat,
" Ah, why indeed!"
The words had gone home, penetrating a
reserved nature and a proud heart. Guy
Manville, like many another high-born, cultured
man in those stirring times of Moody and
Sankey's visit to England, had to acknowledge
before that evening was over that from the
first hymn to the last words of benediction, that
meeting had been to him as a voice from
Heaven. Try as he would, he could not get
away from the appeal which held him spell-
bound from first to last.
Mr. Sankey had sung mid- way in the service —
Nothing but leaves,
The spirit grieves
Over a wasted life ;
O'er sins indulged while conscience slept,
O'er vows and promises unkept,
And reaps from years of strife
Nothing but leaves, nothing but leaves.
To Guy as he sat there, every fibre of his
being swayed by new feelings, new emotions,
he thought it might have been written for his
case, so exactly did it portray the measure he
took there and then of his own life.
EIGHT THOUSAND EMPTY CHAIRS 303
As in a panorama he saw the past — child-
hood, youth, manhood, home life, 'Varsity life,
and life as lived to-day, bearing only the stamp
of self. What had he ever done for others
worth doing ? What had the Christ been to him
personally, individually, more than a name, a
name, too, chiefly associated with enforced
attendance at church, with sermons pleasant
only in their ending, with solemn (and these
but rare) occasions of depression or active
Whereas — oh ! the possibilities which life
held — real life, true, actual life, not the word,
the sound, but the vitality itself.
When Mr. Moody began to speak — the
address in all could only have lasted some
fifteen or twenty minutes — Guy was conscious
of the same fascination. Bluff almost to
brusqueness, rough, rugged, and uncultured,
with an American accent and choice of
language — I guess " and I reckon " — what
was there in the preacher to claim affinity with
the young aristocrat of noble birth and refined
education, the Society man who an hour or
two ago could count as his highest enjoyment
a game of billiards with an opponent worth
the fighting, or a champagne lunch with
congenial friends ?
In the man Moody himself nothing, nothing ;
but in the messenger of God, be his name
304 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
Moody or what not, whose spiritual being-
was such an absolute reahty, such a divine
force that it alone was felt, realised — much,
Guy sat and listened as one to whom God
Himself was speaking.
I am the Light of the World," thundered
Moody, repeating again and again his text,
'*Who said it? Christ. What right had
He to say it ? Every right, because it is
true, as every one may prove. Shut yourself
up in a cellar on a blazing hot summer's day
and shout till you're hoarse, ' There's no such
thing as sunshine,' what difference would it
make to the man who's out in the warmth
and glow and light of the sun ? None what-
ever. He's proved for himself what it is like.
Why don't you prove — you, my friend there,
you, you, what the Saviour meant every
one to understand — that He is the Light of
the World, the Light of Life?
You've been long enough in the kingdom
of darkness, I reckon, to tell pretty much what
it's like. It's not suggestive of much peace or
happiness or useful service for other folks
now, is it? There's a lot of disappointment
to be accounted for, a world of trouble and
anguish, and, worse than all else, a conscious-
ness that life's a failure, look at it which way
you will. My dear friends, of course it is, and
EIGHT THOUSAND EMPTY CHAIRS 305
It will get more and more so, only your senses
may be dulled, and you won't always see it as
you do to-day. Why do you loiter or linger
when He calls you out of darkness? He,
the Christ, God's own Beloved Son, calls you
out of darkness into His marvellous light.
Why? What to do? To live to yourself
as you've been doing all these years ? No,
my friend, leave that to those who serve
the Prince of Darkness — that's his creed.
Please yourself and be happy. Why, the
very command holds a lie. No man is happy
while pleasing himself is his life object. No,
no ; our Lord Jesus Christ has something
better in store for those He calls out of dark-
ness into His marvellous light: it is, that they
may show forth the Father s praises.
A new heart, a new nature, a new life: — all
belongs to the new venture. In His light we
see light. We see sin atoned for by His precious
sacrifice — death upon the cross ; sin forgiven
because He bore our sins and suffered for our
iniquities ; the chastisement of our peace was
upon Him. With His stripes we are healed.
Jesus Christ is ours. What wonder that
breathing a new life, with new instincts and
ambitions, we long to show forth His praises ;
and how do we do it ? The Bible tells us
straight — show our love to God by our love to
man. By love we serve one another. Oh,
306 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
how the praises are mounting up to-night of
some hearts at this very moment, longing for
the salvation of other dear ones! How they
sound like beautiful bells of joy and thanks-
giving in Heaven to-night, while one and
another says, ' Lord, what wilt Thou have^me
to do ? In the past I have lived for self, but
to-night I give myself to Thee. Let me be a
It was about two hours later when Mr. Moody
took leave of a young man with whom he had
had a somewhat lengthy interview in the
Well, good-bye, God bless you and make
you a blessing to others," said the evangelist,,
taking the young man's hand in a warm grasp,
and bringing up his left hand over the right
with a prolonged shaking.
They were the last to leave the inquiry
room, workers and seekers after sympathy and
help alike had gone. The building itself was-
in semi-darkness. A steward, whose business
it was to see all lights out, lingered in the
distance. He knew Mr. Moody's special wish
to be left alone with any who desired a word
with him ; hence he put himself well beyond
Do you know what brought me here to-
night ? " said the young man, speaking in a.
subdued voice, but with just that joyous.
EIGHT THOUSAND EMPTY CHAIRS 307
intonation which proclaims some great anxiety-
removed or delight recently appropriated.
'*God Himself brought you here, young
gentleman, to be converted to Him," answered
" True," was the reply, while a brilliant smile
swept over the handsome features of the young
man, "but He uses means as you were telling
me just now, and His 'means* in my case was
the desire to see eight thousand chairs set out
in rows as I see them at this moment."
Needless to say the young man who said this
was Guy Manville.
Judith had met Stanley by appointment. They
had not seen each other since meeting so un-
expectedly, on Pritchard's part, the morning upon
which he had given chase, as he believed, to
Aubrey Rice, but they had corresponded, and
Stanley had received weekly a postal order ''to
keep the wolf from the door."
A great many things had happened to which
Judith had never alluded in her letters, but the
time had come when she must explain certain
matters to Stanley. They were simple enough
in the main, but fraught with large issues. "You
know," said Judith, as she and her husband
paced the Victoria Embankment, having met
outside the Guildhall School of Music, and
there was a touch of the old playfulness in her
tones, "other people cannot get through life
without having their own lawyer; neither can I.
I had to see mine last, I mean years ago,
about a little piece of business which I hope
you regret as much as I do to-day ; but three
weeks ago I looked him up just to give him a
friendly call, and my appearance caused quite a
sensation. He thought of me as on the other side
of the Atlantic, and there was a letter addressed
to me and actually stamped, lying upon his desk
ready for the post!"
''And you collared it there and then, and put
the rescued stamps in your purse?" said Stanley,
laughing. Judith s freshness was very inspiring;
she came, as her letters always did, as a sort of
breeze into his life, and whatever his mood for
the moment he was the better.
''I am afraid I forgot all about the stamps,"
said Judith, laughing ; "my brain was quite
turned for the moment by the news verbally
given me, the news the letter was intended to con-
vey. An old uncle of my father s, living away in
Gloucestershire in the Forest of Dean, had died,
leaving his great-niece, Judith, sole possessor
of his property. We always thought him poor,
very poor, but it turns out he had saved and
hidden away about his cottage quite a little
fortune. And now, Stanley, I have come to-day
to ask you to let bygones be bygones. I want
you to leave this great city in which you have
had so many troubled times, and come down
into the country. We will set aside our legal
separation, which we have really annulled long
ago, and start life afresh. I promise never to
nag at you or remind you of other days; and if
you agree to this plan, I mean to trust you
once again and believe all you tell me, so you
will have to be on your honour, sir!"
3IO THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
" Oh, Judith ! how could you be so — so
merciful ? " exclaimed Stanley, his eyes filling
with honest tears. "No, I'm a brute, and
there's no saving me."
" You are not a brute," said Judith, emphati-
cally ; you are a man with a mind, and you
are going to use that mind. Come, just say
you agree to my plan, because I have heaps
more to tell you, that is, if you mean to give
me the pleasure of receiving you into my
cottage as a guest who will early arrange to
take up his residence there altogether."
After this, Judith talked to her heart's
content. Stanley looked pleased, though
saying but little.
It was barely ten days later when the two
took possession of the pretty cottage in
Mitcheldean. Judith had urged her husband
to get into steady employment, although their
property was quite enough to keep the two,
if living quietly.
It was not long before Stanley secured a
local appointment as collector, and for a while
things went on well ; but harvest festivities
led to a broken pledge — for he had pledged
his word to Judith to abstain from all intoxi-
cating drinks as a beverage — and the drift
downward set in from that hour. Judith met
the downfall with hopeful pleading. Once she
would have railed at him for folly and weak-
ness ; to-day she spoke only of renewed effort
and of the perseverance which carries its own
She had her reward ; Stanley made a fresh
start ; he had lost his appointment, but was
not long before finding another. Again a few
months of comparative rest to Judith ; then
disgrace which threatened ruin to her most
sanguine hopes and plans. Stanley had
embezzled some money of which as collector
he was in charge, and had absconded.
To take from her little capital and make
good the default was only a work of time,
brought about with as much expedition as
could be planned. Then, not getting a word
from Stanley, and taking for granted that
London would be his hiding - ground, Judith
let her cottage furnished, and set off in search
of her missing husband.
She took a humble lodging to be at as little
expense as possible, and spent most of her days
visiting spots which she had known her husband
to frequent. Nor did she confine her search-
ings to daylight. She found her way to the
various music halls known to her so well by
name, but into none of which had she ever
entered. At these doors she stood scanning the
faces of all who passed in or out. Once she
thought to go within and gaze upon the crowd.
With trembling hand she paid her entrance
312 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
money and entered. Dazzled by the light,
bewildered by the music, at that moment un-
usually brilliant, she stood transfixed, as in a
lull a girlish voice sang a popular ditty, not too
exalted in tone and character from the start,
but coarsening at its close ; then, with burning
cheek and quickened pulse, indignant at the
insult offered in the song to all pure woman-
hood, Judith turned and fled, never again to
repeat the experiment.
And all this while her great love for Stanley
gave her hope and led her on to plan what
should be the next thing done when he was
found. They would travel, go round the world
together, visit her mother, from whom she had
carefully kept back her sad news. He would
grow stronger with added years, until the wild
oats sown in youth and reaped in matured
manhood would be swept aside, leaving the
after-life ready to be lived wisely and dis-
But the months passed on and still she found
no clue to Stanley s movements. Her lawyer
had suggested, Why not give him up ?
Return to your mother, and forget you ever
knew the man," to which advice, with scalding
tears shadowing her beautiful eyes, Judith had
made quick reply, *'No, Mr. Ashley, as I read
my wifely duties to-day (I own it was not
always so), I can never relinquish my search
for Stanley Pritchard. Let me but find him
and convince him by my ceaseless endeavour to
trace him that my love is undying, and I may
win him yet to a better hope and life!"
''Well, young lady, may you be rewarded, if
not in this world, in the next," had been the
lawyer's reply, much moved.
Then the unexpected happened. Judith met
the one at whose house she and Stanley had
stayed at the Lakes when first married ; a
motherly kind of woman, now on a visit to
London, who in her way had both admired and
pitied the bride who was so many years older
than her husband. "She was far too good for
him." "There was more love on her side than
his,'' and so forth.
"Why, my dear Mrs. Pritchard, can it be
you?" she exclaimed, chancing to take a seat
beside Judith in St. James' Park one morning.
It was spring-time and some five months since
Stanley had left home. "Why, it was but the
other day I met your husband in the People's
Palace, Mile End way, you know ? I asked after
you, and I thought I understood him you were
away abroad for a while with your mother."
"How did he seem? What did he look like?
Was he — about the same as when you first knew
him?" Judith put the questions breathlessly.
"Well, now you ask so plain, I'll not deny it
gave me a bit of a turn to see how changed he
314 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
was. He looked years older and — well, less
careful about himself. It struck me his hair
wanted cutting, and he would have done with a
clean collar. There, my dear! I really must
ask you to forgive me, but now you put it to
me, it seems only right to speak out!"
''Poor fellow," said Judith, feelingly; "he
has been worried a good deal lately, and he
prefers being by himself just now. I am
longing to see him, but must wait my time.
Does he look ill?"
'' Not a bit of it," said the good woman, who
could see well enough through Judith's very
transparent endeavour to shield her husband,
but was scarcely cultured enough to hide her
discovery ; one more degree of natural refine-
ment and she might have accomplished it.
*' He looked as if he enjoyed a good dinner
every day, and I'm afraid by the appearance of
his eyes he takes his drink pretty freely. There,
my dear, if, as I suppose, he's not turned out a
good bargain, take my advice and do not break
your heart over him. If he throws his life
away, don't you lose yours in fretting after him.
He's not worth it."
The Bible tells us we save our lives in losing
them," said Judith, solemnly, but when speaking
her eyes were on the ground at her feet. She
was thinking aloud : I shall not lose mine if
I can get my husband back again — I mean
away from this dreadful London. There is so
much here to tempt a man to go off the straight
She stopped abruptly. No, not even to this
comparative stranger could Judith prevaricate.
Stanley had not started off the right road in
this last breakdown in London. In the peaceful
village, lying in the heart of some of the fairest
scenery in England, Stanley had had set before
him life and death — and he had chosen death.
It is not the "without" of life's surroundings
and circumstances which tempt a man to sin,
but the within " of a heart prone to evil.
The microbes of disease only germinate and
create sickness where the physical frame of
one approached connives at the conspiracy of
evil ; what the healthy refuse the weakly
appropriate. Hence the wisdom of the counsel.
Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of
it are the issues of life."
This accidental meeting in St. James' Park
took Judith eastwards. Stanley would be
living there, and frequenting the People's
Palace for his recreation and his meals. And
this departure from west to east brought
Judith — later — in contact with Mr. Moody's
meetings, of which mention has already been
made. She attended the services night by
night, searching there as everywhere else for
Stanley, helped and strengthened for her
3l6 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
sorrowful life in ways which can never be fitly
described, and only understood when personally
It was on one of these never-to-be-forgotten
evenings that she first met Sister Dora, to
whom later she told her sorrowful story. It
was natural for Guy Manville, who by this
time was a recognised convert of the mission,
and one desiring to be a worker in the East
End, to be taken into confidence, Sister Dora
claiming his help in the search ; and it was also
natural for these three, Judith and Sister Dora
and Guy, having found each other under these
circumstances, not to lose each other again.
Long after Moody's visit had become only a
memory with the world generally around
Stepney, these three met twice at least weekly
to compare notes and see what progress had
been made. Judith was lodging in Bromley
Street, near to Stepney Meeting House. She
shared the sitting-room, in the house of a
widow, with a lay missionary, a woman whose
zeal and love for poor lost humanity made her a
noted character in that part of the world.
It was in this sitting-room that the three met,
and Guy was not long in discovering that some-
thing more than interest in Mrs. Pritchards
search for her missing husband led him to
welcome each opportunity of finding his way
there as a Heaven-permitted joy.
AN INTERVIEW AT THE MANOR
Squire Butler-Edgcombe lived a life of quiet
usefulness, and in his way enjoyed himself.
He devoted a good deal of time to politics, but
more to philanthropy. The Rector was so con-
vinced of his sanctified common sense that he
was quite ready to make advances towards a
But the Squire gave him no encouragement.
The man who could deny his daughter her
rights as such must, he argued, have a heart
of stone. While he persisted in banishing
Gertrude Rice from the Rectory, he need not
expect to be tolerated as a guest at the Manor
House. Hence the two remained strangers
to each other and little more.
The Squire's pleasure in those days was to
hunt up any who could claim relationship, how-
ever distant, with himself, easing off work to
men well on in life by settling a small annuity
upon them, helping forward some of a younger
generation to whom the gift of a few hundred
pounds at the right moment was better than
thousands left to them at an inopportune season,
3l8 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
Otherwise a time when powers and energies
were on the wane and ambition itself was dying
a natural death.
With his lawyer the Squire had friendly
intercourse from time to time. He had never
regretted the bargain struck over the trial
which was to secure to him, or lose, his property ;
nor did he doubt but what the enterprising and
energetic solicitor would succeed him when,
in the providence of God, he was called to join
his saintly wife and sister-in-law in Heaven.
Hence it came to him as quite a shock one
day to read in the Times of the death of the
very man of whom he had so often thought as
the one to take his place at Edgcombe Manor.
He tried in many ways after this to cultivate
the son, but it was almost a pain to him to do
so, for Cyril Grant was a man as contrary to
the Squire as it was possible to be. He was a
man who aspired to be great, and in the very
effort to become so established his own small-
ness. Look at him which way he would, the
Squire found cause to dislike him. He was a
young upstart ! So said Mr. Butler- Edgcombe
to himself, after going out of his way to become
more friendly ; more was the pity that sooner or
later he would be in power at Edgcombe Manor,
and bring in force a reign of terror which would
go far to undo any good which he might, under
Providence, have managed to effect during the
past few years.
AN INTERVIEW AT THE MANOR 319
Still, the Squire was not a man to worry over
prospective trouble. The only difference that
he permitted to be established in his mind was
an added care to make hay while the sun shone.
Only those in possession of wealth know how
much can be done with it when to the willing-
ness to bestow is allied the determination to find
out how best to act in the interests of the one
benefited. It is one thing to sit down and
write a cheque for a hundred pounds, and
quite another matter to plan how best to spend
that sum upon an individual without injuring
self-respect or reducing the vital forces of self-
Mr. Butler-Edgcombe had been in town, a
visit to his tailor being earlier than anticipated
in the season, as he had a deep-set plan upper-
most in his mind just then of sending to the
home of a poor clergyman, just such a man in
build as himself, an anonymous gift, a perfect
wardrobe of clothing *'only worn long enough to
The Squire had chuckled to himself over the
pleasure he was about to bring into a struggling
life, of the mysterious guesses as to where the
things had come from, and he was feeling so
supremely happy at the moment of passing his
young lawyer's town office (the country one had
been given up), that he thought he would look
in just for a friendly *'How d'ye do?" even if by
320 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
accident, as on a previous occasion, such a visit
was booked for a six-and-eightpenny fee.
*'Is Mr. Grant in, and disengaged?" the
Squire said, cheerfully shaking hands with
Drake, the confidential clerk, a genial habit he
had wherever he went of bringing a little special
brightness into business life.
" Oh, haven't you heard, sir?" was the reply,
spoken in awed tones. * * The poor young gentle-
man was thrown from his horse in the hunting
field yesterday morning, and was picked up
dead. It is an awful blow to his widowed
mother and young wife."
And to me, too," said the Squire, to whom
the news had brought a genuine shock.
Why, he was my heir. Suppose you were
in the secret ? "
" Yes, sir ; he used to talk a great deal about
it at times ; he built his hopes, I know, upon it,
and quite looked forward to your — Excuse
me, sir ; forgive my blunder ; we business men
are too apt to make practical reflections."
My death? Oh, do not apologise," said
the Squire. " I daresay I should have put it
that way myself if the case had been reversed.
How are these widows left? There will be
two of them to think about now."
Well, sir, not so well off but they might be
better," said the confidential clerk, feelingly.
The Squire was not quite sure how far his
AN INTERVIEW AT THE MANOR 32 1
Statement was to be relied upon ; but on his
return home he drew out two cheques for a
thousand pounds each, and one for one hundred
pounds, and the hearts of the two widows and
one confidential clerk were, a day or two later,
considerably gladdened in consequence.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, the Squire thought
incessantly during church time of a poor
innocent man serving his time in a convict
prison, who to-day was heir to a large property
which in years to come would, he trusted, help
him to find some consolation in life for all the
troubles he had passed through. Strange how
it altered everything ; but from the time of
hearing of the young lawyer's death the Squire
found an added pleasure in life. Aubrey Rice
would follow him. As soon as his time was up,
owing to that dastardly intrigue by which he,
one of the noblest of men, had been called
to suffer — the innocent instead of the guilty —
he would send for him to the Manor House, and
get him to stay with him from time to time, if
not altogether, that he might get familiar with
his methods of work. His dear wife — oh ! how
grieved he was to have lost sight of her, but
he had never been able to trace her address —
she would share his pleasures. Well, three
years of the seven had gone ; the other four
would soon pass. In all these calculations the
Rector, who would indirectly be interested in
the matter, was entirely ignored.
32 2 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
Then, as he dwelt upon this all-absorbing
subject, the Squire bethought him of a plan ; he
would write to the governor of the convict
prison and get him to let him pay Aubrey a
visit. It would cheer his last miserable years
there to know how matters stood. But the
Squire had to bear a great disappointment. In
answer to his letter to the prison, he received
the information that during the August following
his advent into prison, the previous October,
No. 75 (Aubrey Rice) had managed to effect an
escape, and despite every inquiry and most
searching effort on the part of the police,
nothing had been heard of him since. His
conduct during his residence in prison had been
most exemplary. His escape caused consider-
able conjecture at the time as to the motive
inducing him to run the risk to life and limb
which the drop of thirty feet entailed — (his
way of escape had been easily determined) —
and so forth.
" Ton my word, what complications," said the
Squire ; " and there seems nothing to be done."
Then, after deep and grave consideration upon
the question, he thought one thing might at
least be attempted ; he would write to Guy
Manville, Aubreys best man at his wedding,
and get him to come to the Manor House, and
they could talk over some plan for unearthing
the man in hiding.
AN INTERVIEW AT THE MANOR 323
'*The miserable part of it all is," said Guy,
when in due course he arrived and matters were
well talked over, ''that if we find poor Rice, it
would only be to have the police down upon
him while this dreadful forgery sentence hangs
over his head."
" True," admitted the Squire, "but for myself
I should have no compunction in sheltering
Aubrey Rice from any legal action. I am so
convinced in my own mind of the poor fellow's
innocence that, magistrate that I am — and I
hope one strong enough to minister the law
where it is needed — I would not lift up a little
finger to bring that poor fellow to justice.
Keep your eyes open in your East End visit-
ing, Mr. Manville ; you may come across him
in some out-of-the-way-place ! "
"Do you really think so?" exclaimed Guy,
joyfully. " I won't forget what you say. Poor
Aubrey ! Poor Mrs. Rice ! I never knew a
sadder case ! "
" I did," said the Squire, quietly.
" Whose was it ? " asked Guy.
" I can give no names," said the Squire, "but
it's the man who actually committed the forgery
and then contrived to put the blame on some
one else. That man's life must be hell to him,
whereas Aubrey Rice's conscience will acquit
him of any wrong-doing. God bless him !
Mark my word, his innocence will be estab-
lished yet ! "
WHERE HAD HE MET HIM BEFORE ?
Guy Manville was away for two months that
summer travelling on the Continent with his
people, and as happy fortune would have it,
meeting when mid-way in his holiday with
Sister Dora, her father and mother, and the
aunt from Berkeley Square. The families lost
no time- in becoming intimate, and by a little
readjustment of plans, mutually conceded, they
kept together until their return to England
early in September, by which time it was an
open secret that Dora Thatchet and the future
Lord Horrick were more to each other than
Judith's quick eye caught the announcement
of the engagement in an evening paper which
she was carefully scanning, hoping to find
mention of her missing husband. Even should
such mention chance to be an item of police
news, Judith would have felt relieved, especially
if it meant a few days' detention in prison,
giving her an opportunity of being within reach
when the release came. For the more she
thought of Stanley's conduct since what she
WHERE HAD HE MET HIM BEFORE ? 325
called the second volume of her married life
had been opened and read, the more she was
oppressed by the thoughts that he, not Aubrey
Rice, had been guilty of forgery. And so
terrible at times was this conviction that even
her desire to find her lost husband became, in
the very hope of its realisation, an anguish lest
she should be running to earth a guilty man.
Would her heart fail her in such a case,
causing her to shelter the guilty while leaving
the innocent to suffer ? Once she broke away
from her search, completely overborne by the
conviction that nothing would lead her to betray
her husband, even if he made full confession to
her of his crime. She went down to Michael-
dean, ostensibly to look after her property there,
but in reality to get rested and find restored
balance for mind and nerves. It was while
there that she saw the announcement of the
engagement referred to, and feeling morally
convinced that neither Miss Thatchet nor Mr.
Manville would devote as much time in the
future as in the past to their work in the East
End, she felt constrained to return at once and
continue the search. But her fortnight in the
country had worked wonders. For the first few
days she had slept incessantly, waking up only
for her food; her homely landlady, knowing she
had come down for the purpose of rest, did her
best to contribute to it. The remainder of her
326 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
so-called holiday she had spent chiefly in the
open air, often in the harvest field, sometimes,
towards evening, in long lonely walks in the
Once she had been startled by an apparition.
A half-clothed man had rushed out upon her
from the trees, dancing round her as he waved
his arms, talking the while hurriedly and inco-
herently, the summing-up of his intelligible words ,
being, "Yes, yes; no, no." It was only a
moment, and men in pursuit had surrounded the
poor lunatic and taken him away. She learnt
afterwards that a devoted wife had sought to
care for her mentally afflicted husband (his
illness coming on by degrees) without allowing
his removal to an asylum, with the result that
in a short absence from the cottage on her part,
he had made his escape, frightening one woman
into a fit and actually inflicting bodily injury
upon three or four children who, terror-struck,
had got in his way.
It was strange how this incident, by a
sequence of thought, led Judith to the con-
clusion that to attempt to protect her husband
from the law, should he ever confess to her that
his hand, not Aubrey Rice's, was responsible
for the forged cheques, would be to tamper
with the life happiness of the many while
selfishly aiming to secure her own. She
determined to strengthen her resolve for
WHERE HAD HE MET HIM BEFORE ? 327
definite action should the time ever come
when it would be needed, by telling Mr.
Manville and Sister Dora the story of her early
married life. The incident of the ;^500 would
be given naturally, and her dread lest it had
not been rightly come by could be told ; she
would take to herself all the blame ; indeed, but
for her own contrition in having pressed for
this money, the story might pass out of memory.
Judith thought thus to prepare the minds of
her friends for any future development of a
discovery which in some way she believed
possible, if not probable, as associated with the
finding of her husband. She had at various
times already referred to her unfortunate
marriage, and her subsequent going abroad
with her mother, giving to her later deep
religious convictions the desire to give herself
utterly to the salvation of her husband.
But before she had an opportunity of carrying
this determination into effect as it concerned
fuller detail and reference to the ;^5oo, some-
thing happened. It was late in October. Sister
Dora and Mr. Manville were back at their
work in the East End ; they spent much of
their time as before in visiting the lodging-
houses with which the neighbourhood of
Ratcliffe Highway abounds. Judith had found
her own special work in visiting the crippled
and aged in the streets and courts teeming with
328 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
human life on the Mile End side of Stepney
Green. To her the People's Palace was in a
sense a landmark, a centre point towards which
all her thoughts gravitated.
Sister Dora was very popular in the lodging-
houses chiefly, but not exclusively, occupied by
women. Guy Manville was accounted ''a fel-
low who meant no harm " in those absolutely
given up to ''men only."
One evening, having walked down to their
scene of labour together, and arranging to meet
at a given hour at Medland Hall — a mission
station just at that time beginning to be known —
Guy and his fiancee parted for their respective
duties — Dora to find her way into the lodging-
house kitchens (where she was always sure of a
welcome) to sing hymns to the poor, miserable-
looking creatures there, in her sweet soprano
voice, which won its way into all hearts, talking
between whiles in homely fashion of God's gifts
to everybody — air and light, His sunshine and
flowers, the love evinced. His desire to be the
home of our spirits, and His tender pity for the
sad and unfortunate. ''He willeth not that
any should perish," Sister Dora would say,
pathetically, "so, dear women, cheer up, hope
for better days, and when the right thing to
be done faces you, do it."
" Ain't it beautiful ? " one old dame had said
on one such occasion, shambling out of her seat
WHERE HAD HE MET HIM BEFORE ? 329
as she spoke and sidling up to Sister Dora.
" My dear," she added, with trembling voice,
I used to know all about those things once.
I was a buxom lassie then. My father was
parish clerk and gravedigger in a country
village ; and I wore nice clothes and went to
church as regular as Sunday came along ; and
I could look the gentry in the face and know
my soul was as much to God above as theirs.
I had no secrets in those days. But — ah ! well,
it's the old story. The Squire's son came along
our way once too often, and. . . . poor
fellow, how was he to know what ruin and
desolation lay for me beyond the lovely garden
of romance in which he bid me walk . . .
Yes, it's a goodish bit ago — say fifty years and
odd ; but your sweet words are like the smell
of new-mown hay to me, and country posies
gathered in May-time ; and it takes my thoughts
back to those days of innocence. Do you think
he would have protected my innocence could he
see me now and know what the years between
have brought ? / don't. Man's a short-sighted
creature at his best. Ah ! ah ! and his memory
is made to match ! " And the old woman shook
her hand in the air and stumbled back to her
(It will interest the reader to know that this
poor creature eventually became an inmate,
thanks to Dora Thatchet's influence, of one of
330 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
Squire Butler- Edgcombes alms houses, and
ended her days amid the fragrance of country
flowers and that peace which is the Father s
gift to the penitent.)
Guy's steps that night had taken him to
a men's lodging-house where three hundred
and forty-five beds were licensed to exist. It
was only in the evening that the men were to be
seen, and then the general kitchen literally
swarmed with human beings. Many had re-
turned from an honest day's work ixi the Docks,
others had sauntered in from dishonest idleness,
preferring **to get along somehow " — as helped
by the generosity of the more industrious,
notably their lodging-house "pals" so ready to
share a meal with the poor wretch who had
none — to making the effort to stick to employ-
ment, even if found for the m.
Added to these were a few chronics," men
upon whom death had already set its mark, con-
sumptives for the most part who subsisted
chiefly upon the odd shillings and pence (for-
warded to them week by week through the post
by relatives glad to be rid of them, or friends
who had known them in better days) and the
occasionally-shared meal of a fellow-lodger.
Guy was watching one of these that night,
younger by some years than the others, and
with a face which struck him as familiar.
Where had he seen it before? Surely not at
WHERE HAD HE MET HIM BEFORE ? 33 I
one of the other lodging-houses? There were
associations with that face that were painful.
But what were they? Would memory recall
The one in question noticed he was under
observation, and shifted his seat back, directing
his attention very closely to a letter he took
from his pocket.
Guy moved so as to be nearer, and in so
doing it was quite impossible not to see the
handwriting of the letter, with the contents
of which the poor fellow was so apparently
The handwriting was surely Judith's. Guy
had seen hers more than once, as letters
had passed between Mrs. S. Pritchard and Dora
Thatchet. It was unusually large and sprawl-
ing, a great contradiction to the compact little
figure of the writer. Then it dawned upon
him that this would be the long-lost husband
for whom they had made such vigorous search
for the last ten months. Still, that fact did not
explain why his face seemed so familiar. He
had never seen a portrait of him ; and the
wife's descriptions, though vivid up to a point,
did not actually give the tout ensemble which
struck him at the moment.
Where have I met you before ?" said Guy,
sitting down beside the man whose identity
was at that moment such a puzzle to him. If
I mistake not, you know me ? "
332 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
"You were in the court when I gave evidence
in a forgery case about four years ago ; you were
sitting near the judge. I remember your face
well," was the reply, but even as he spoke the
rapid breathing of the consumptive heralded in
a fit of coughing which completely exhausted
When he had somewhat recovered, Guy drew
him aside to the lower end of the kitchen where
a number of men were quietly sitting, some
reading their newspapers, while sets of two and
three were playing draughts and dominoes. It
was much quieter here, and talking could go on
''Oh, yes," said Guy, making a broad
venture, "you are Stanley Pritchard; I remem-
ber now. I was wondering where I had seen
your face before." As a matter of fact, Guy had
no distinct memory of the names of those who
witnessed for the prosecution; it was Judith's
letter which supplied the clue upon which he
based this venture.
" I am known as Simon Perkins here," said
the man, in lowered tones. " When a fellow's
down on his luck, as I am," he continued, " it's
only natural to wish to hide your identity."
"How comes it you are in — such different
circumstances from those you were in the day I
saw you?" inquired Guy. By a strong effort
he kept back all display of pleasure or satisfac-
tion which this conversation was bringing him.
WHERE HAD HE MET HIM BEFORE ? 333
" An extravagant wife ; a perfect little
wretch, with her giddy, drinking ways ! "
exclaimed Stanley, lifting his eyes as if in
" And she died, I suppose ? " said Guy,
wondering if this wife could have been one
prior to the advent of the Judith Pritchard
" Not a bit of it ; she's living, sure enough,"
said Stanley, with a sneer; "these kind of
wives always do live on ; it would be better for
some of us if they didntr
Guy thought of Judith, and groaned inwardly.
Was this the man she was giving her life to
Where is she now ? " said Guy, a certain
display of sympathy in his tones. For even
an imaginary evil to those gifted with imagina-
tion is quick to excite responsive feeling.
" Goodness knows," said Stanley. She
went off to America with some one just about
the time I was giving witness at that trial.
She got tired of that, and turned up again in
England. I met her by chance in Drury Lane
one morning, and she hadn't the good grace to
get out of my way, but actually dared to
address me just the same as if things hadn't
happened. These are the women that would
ruin any man. I lost my employment through
her ; and not the first time either. I was
334 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
refused a reference because I ventured to
question my employer's justice in dismissing
me, and — "
Let me see ; you were at Catchpool
Brothers, I think?" said Guy, fixing his eye
**Yes, I was there once; that's how I came to
know that rascal Aubrey Rice."
Guy jumped up from his seat. Up to this
moment it had never entered his head to
associate the crime of which he knew some
unknown person had been guilty, leading to an
innocent man's conviction, with the witness who
at the trial had given such damnatory evidence.
Now it came to him as a sudden revelation,
Aubrey Rice was suffering the penalty of
Stanley Pritchard's wrongdoing. Perhaps he
could never have arrived so promptly at this
conclusion but for Pritchard's disgraceful fabri-
cations about his wife, for Guy was familiar
with the outlined history of her married life
and of her sojourn abroad with her mother,
whom she had left with relatives when returning
*^Now, look here, Pritchard or Perkins, or by
whatever name you choose to call yourself. I
want to ask your candid opinion about that
forgery ; you don't believe in your heart that
Aubrey Rice committed it?"
"I know he didn't," replied Stanley, bluntly,
quite thrown off his guard.
WHERE HAD HE MET HIM BEFORE ? 335
**And this in the face of your evidence that
day?" said Guy, still keeping his eye fixed upon
**I was mistaken, deluded I might say; but I
had my suspicions some while after, and I've
since pretty well confirmed them ; indeed, I may
say I'm sure I have."
And you have let things go on and never
gone to a magistrate and asked him to see to
the release of an innocent man ? " said Guy,
speaking in tones which sounded almost fierce
in their wrath.
" Here, let us come out if we must talk
private affairs," said Stanley, uncomfortably;
he had noticed a man listening to the conversa-
tion, who at that moment edged up a little
nearer to them, though still purporting to be
reading a book ; and so saying he made for the
door. As he got out into the open air his
cough again became troublesome, and Guy
realised for the first time what a wreck the poor
fellow was. His face was the best part of him ;
his hands were without flesh, and his limbs
generally long and thin, added to which his
figure, about which his clothes hung loosely,
had the stoop of the consumptive. He looked
a man prematurely old.
As he stood coughing in the street, Guy was
roused to wonder if it would not be best there
and then to take him to the Poplar Sick Asylum.
33^ THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
He was in the habit of getting men in, and
knew how to proceed, but he was loth to let
him out of his sight until he had gained from
him all the information he could. At whatever
cost, Aubrey Rice must be cleared.
Then Guy hit upon a bold expedient. He
knew this was a chance not to be lost. He
would take him off to Bromley Street. The lay
missionary worker would give up her sitting-
room to them. Judith Pritchard would be out ;
she seldom reached home before ten, staying
always to watch the men leave the People s
"If you will come with me I can borrow a
friend's room, and we can have our little talk
together undisturbed. Here, youngster," he
continued, speaking to a street Arab, a lad of
13 or 14, ''run as fast as you can to the nearest
cab stand, and fetch me a hansom ; you can
drive back in it, and I'll give you sixpence, and
tell cabby he may expect a double fare for the
honour of carrying you. We shall walk on
towards Stepney Station, taking first turning to
Right you are, sir," exclaimed the lad, dis-
appearing in the darkness of the ill-lighted
street, and returning in an inconceivably short
time sitting on the floor of the cab, his legs
accommodating themselves to the very limited
WHERE HAD HE MET HIM BEFORE? 2)2)7
" Picked him up on the way, sir," said the
boy before Guy could put the question, How
comes it you are back so soon ? " Then he
added, grinning from ear to ear, Half-price to
cabby, sir, seeing as how he wouldn't give me a
decent seat on the velvet cushions!"
Helping Stanley into the hansom, Guy put
sixpence into the lad's hand, taking leave of
him with a word of praise for his quickness,
gave the coachman the number to which to
drive in Bromley Street, and leant back in
silence, thinking it a pity to continue the very
interesting conversation until the house was
reached and freedom from interruption could
I should think you could do with a great-
coat these cold nights," Guy said, looking
compassionately at his companion.
'4 had to part with mine a few weeks back,"
was the reply. I sold it to the Deputy; he's an
awful nice chap, not at all hard on one about
payments. Of course he knows an honest man
when he sees him!"
*'Of course," said Guy, and he wondered how
long Stanley Pritchard would have the audacity
to pose as such after they had had their inter-
Ten minutes later and Guy and Stanley sat
face to face in Judith's sitting-room. The
former had begged a cup of cocoa for his sick
338 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
friend, and, following the lay missionary into the
back sitting-room, he had asked her if she would
be good enough to meet Miss Thatchet at
Medland Hall at nine and see her safely to
him? **Tell her she can come in on arriving
here ; she will be as much interested in the case
as I am." And upon this Guy returned to the
room in which he had left Stanley. The cocoa
quickly followed, being eagerly taken by the
one for whom it was intended.
And now tell me," Guy said, as he took his
seat opposite to his visitor, '* how came you to
suspect Aubrey Rice to be innocent and not at
once state the case to a magistrate ? "
Oh, well, I don't say I was ready to swear
it in a court of justice. It might, after all, you
see, only be a mistake, like it was in the first
instance. But of one thing I am quite sure,
Aubrey Rice never did commit forgery ; and
if it's my dying breath, I'd like to repeat it to
clear his name. He deserves it."
" Still, if it's only surmise on your part, what
is the use of stirring up the matter?" said Guy,
speaking cautiously. The cough interrupted
the reply ; how much of it was forced was open
Come," said Guy, gently, "seeing you are,
I fear, a dying man, why not clear your mind
and speak out plainly what you really mean ?
You have admitted that some one other than
WHERE HAD HE MET HIM BEFORE? 339
Aubrey Rice signed those cheques. Why not
go a step further and say who it was ? "
He's dead, the man I'm thinking of," said
Stanley, looking at Guy Manville for a moment,
then turning suddenly away.
What was his name ? " asked Guy, and he
tried to keep out of his voice the irritation he
felt. This patience-trying interview might drag-
on for hours in this way.
I tell you Tm not prepared to give it," said
Stanley Pritchard, doggedly. I don't see why
you should take up a chance remark of mine
like you have done, and worry me with ques-
tions I never intend answering. I'll go home,
and don't you interfere with me again ! " and he
rose from his chair angrily.
This was too terrible. Guy moved quickly,
and, planting his back to the door, said, I
shall not let you go until you have given
me a connected history of this painful case.
Remember, I was at the trial, and am prepared
to say my poor friend, Aubrey Rice, was con-
demned upon your evidence."
Your friend? Do you know him, really
know him ? " said Stanley, suddenly growing
excited. Oh, poor fellow, but I'm awfully
sorry I helped to land him in trouble. I never
should have done it but for that fiend of a wife
of mine. She worked on me for monies which
— which I could not find, and — "
340 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
''And what?" said Guy, severely, almost
fiercely. This was a man who evidently had
to be kept up to his duty ; fitful, vacillating,
changeable, he blew hot and cold in a moment,
and a resolution made this minute was broken
the next. How hopeless to get any satisfac-
tory statements from him !
Just then Guy heard the latch-key opening
the street door. He looked at his watch. It
was barely nine o'clock. It could not be the
lay-missionary and Dora. There was only
one other it could be. The return of Judith
Pritchard at this hour was the last thing he
should have thought about. It had never
entered into his calculations. For the moment
he was in great agitation. How could he
leave Pritchard even for a second? In his
present mood might he not do all sorts of
desperate things ? How could his wife bear
the shock of seeing him, without a word of
warning, ensconsed in her own arm-chair and
occupying her sitting-room ?
Even while questioning himself, there was
some one trying to enter the room. He moved
away from the door so as to make it possible to
open it, and, in so doing, made way for Judith
Pritchard to pass in.
STANLEY PRITCHARD's CONFESSION
I BEG your pardon, Mr. Manville ; I thought
to find Miss M'Gregor here."
Mrs. Pritchard had withdrawn the moment
she perceived Guy to be occupied with a visitor,
and when she spoke she was standing just out-
side the door.
Please, come in," said Guy Manville,
earnestly, by some strange impulse led to do
what he thought must bring matters to a climax,
quite regardless of the after consequences.
" This fellow here knew my friend Aubrey
Rice ; he goes by the name of Simon Perkins,
but his own people call him, I expect, Stanley
Pritchard ; he says he had a bad wife, a regular
fiend, so he tells me."
Guy spoke thus to show his visitor up in his
true light before his wife, when recognising him,
could make any affectionate advances. By this
time she had stepped into the room, and her
glance was fixed upon the one spoken of
I think he is only joking with you, Mr.
Manville," she said, quietly. Her breath came
quickly, and her chest was heaving, otherwise
342 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
she maintained a perfectly calm exterior. He
had started at the sound of her voice, looking
up with dismay and awe, then relapsing into his
Speak to him, Mrs. Pritchard," said Guy,
already greatly relieved to find she was equal to
the occasion. Some women, he knew, would
have fainted or gone off into hysterics.
And Judith advanced still further into the
''How are you, Stanley?" she said, putting
out her hand, which, however, he did not
attempt to take. '* Poor dear," she continued,
sympathetically, '* but you do look ill ! Oh,
why did you stay away so long ? Why did
you not come home to be nursed ? "
''Judith," said Stanley, looking up with a
furtive glance, "I've been telling a lot of lies
to this gentleman about you. You'll hate me
when you hear the cruel things I've said — not
a grain of truth in them. Say you despise
me, as you used to do in the old days before
our legal separation ! "
" But you forget the new days," said Judith,
going nearer and putting her hand on Stanley's
bowed head, " when I confessed my own share
of the troubled past, and asked you to forgive
and forget ? Don't you remember, Stanley,
everything had grown to be so different to me
because — because — "
STANLEY PRITCHARD's CONFESSION 343
Judith's voice grew very agitated here, but
after a moment's pause she went on.
Because I had become a disciple of Christ's,
and He gave me love for hate, and patience
and hope in place of despising and scorn.
Stanley, you remember how we started life
again at Michaeldean, and how happy we were
until — "
" Until I got drunk — out with it, Judith," said
Stanley, bending his forehead on his hands, and
so throwing his face in complete shadow.
Oh, I mean long after that, dear ; that was
forgiven and forgotten and you made another
start, and we were so happy — "
" Until I bolted with the money," interrupted
Stanley. Then, lifting himself up, he said ex-
citedly, *'Tell me, Judith, are the police after
me ? Two hundred pounds is enough to give
a man a fair taste of penal service ! "
Oh, that was all settled just as soon as I
could get my money free," exclaimed Judith,
brightly. " I paid every penny of it before you
had been away three weeks, and then I came
to London to seek you, and I have sought and
sought ever since, and still my love is not tired
out ; and now, dear, God has brought you to
me, and in my heart I thank Him. But,
Stanley dear, I have a question to ask you
which has been burning in my mind for months
and months. You are the only person in the
344 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
whole wide world who can tell me. Is not Mr.
Aubrey Rice innocent of the charge of forgery-
brought against him five long years ago ?
Speak, Stanley," she urged, as no answer
came ; then, stooping down so as to look into
the face of the man she addressed, she saw it
was wet with tears.
Yes, Judith, Rice is innocent, worse luck for
the guilty," Stanley Pritchard said at length.
Name the guilty man, Stanley ! " she con-
tinued in the same measured and authoritative
tones. Remember," she added, **to know
this I came to England years ago. I had my
suspicions then ; they have been strengthened
since. Will you name the forger, or shall I ? "
As you seem to know all about it, you had
better tell this gentleman here, Mr. Rice's
friend, the whole story," Stanley said, doggedly.
" You mean," continued Judith, about my
mother s freehold which you sold for her benefit
you said, but you gambled away the money and
so robbed her of all ? "
Stanley nodded his head in assent.
Then we were very unhappy, and we were
always quarrelling, and we got a legal separ-
ation on the ground of incompatibility of
temper. Are you thinking of that ? "
Go on ; tell it all while you're about it,"
Stanley said, this time burying his face in his
STANLEY PRITCHARd's CONFESSION 345
You went your way, and I mine," continued
Judith. My way took me to Guildford Street,
Bloomsbury, with my mother, where we heard
of you in various ways, and — and usually the
hearing was full of sadness and pain."
"You didn't care a bit, Judith; you know
you didn't," Stanley exclaimed, but his voice
sounded muffled and hoarse.
I cared a good deal, for I loved you all the
while devotedly," replied Judith, and for the
first time her voice trembled with emotion.
Then she sighed, and continued — You allowed
me a pound a week, which came through my
lawyer. I sent for you one July and made you
an offer. Your payments should cease, and I
would never ask you again to contribute to my
support if you repaid my mother the money
which was hers, namely, four hundred and
seventy-five pounds, bringing the sum up in
round figures to five hundred pounds. I sug-
gested for you to insure your life and borrow
this sum, paying back the one pound weekly to
the source from which you drew the sum I
asked. You agreed to this, and late in Sep-
tember you brought me two hundred and thirty
pounds in gold, and early in October two
hundred and sixty-five pounds in gold, the five
pound slacking of the five hundred pounds you
said it had cost you in expenses. Is that
34^ THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
correct ? And isn't that the exact sum of those
two forged cheques ? "
Stanley nodded his head.
My mother and I left Southampton on the
4th of October ; you saw us off ; we parted
friends. I wrote twice from America, but
received no answer to my letters. Then I
chanced, quite two years afterwards, in unwrap-
ping a parcel which had followed us from
England the Christmas of our going out, and
been put aside (the newspaper at least, with one
or two things contained in the parcel, had been
put away) — I chanced to read the forgery case,
and saw with terrible anguish of spirit that,
chiefly upon the evidence of one Stanley
Pritchard, one, whose name I had never heard
before, Mr. Aubrey Rice, had been sent to
penal servitude for seven years ! I lost no time
in coming to England to find you, and heard
from your own lips that — that you were not
mixed up in the wrong done. I expected to
find you at Catchpool Brothers ; you had been
dismissed (I heard this from the senior partner
of the Firm) for irregularities he would prefer
not to go into. But after endless days, devoted
to fruitless search, I found you, met you in Drury
Lane, put the question to you, and you assured
me every penny of the money brought to me
had been honourably borrowed — is that not all
true to fact
STANLEY PRITCHARD's CONFESSION 347
''Quite true; go on," said Stanley, glancing
up at that moment to note that Guy Manville
was still where he had stood when Judith
Now, listen carefully, Stanley," said Judith,
impressively. " What you told me as we
walked from Drury Lane to the Strand was —
a hideous lie. Confess, now, it was your hand,
not Mr. Aubrey Rice's, which signed those
cheques ! It was you, Stanley, wAo committed
forgery for which an innocent man was made
to suffer ! "
As Judith paused, her husband lifted his face
from his hands. The flickering light of the
little lamp standing on the table near played
about his ashen brow, upon which huge beads
of perspiration gathered. His bloodshot eyes
glanced up with piteous pleading into the
face of the little woman, who had told her story
from beginning to end in a voice subdued and
tender, with deep feeling. His lips trembled
visibly. He tried to frame some words, but for
fully two minutes no sound came. Then all at
once, and so loud as to be most startling,
Stanley said —
It's true, all true. I forged those cheques,
and made the strokes in Rice's blotting case
which brought the dastardly deed home to him-
self." Then, continuing hurriedly in lowered
tones, he said, I managed the little job very
348 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
comfortably, borrowing his latch-key, and, as I
thought, taking the time when his old mother
was up to her mad tricks at the station, and the
old servant doing her marketing ; but, worse
luck, the old mother was not out, it seemed, for
when I was busy with my dastardly work, she
gave me a fright by opening the door between
Rice s room and hers, and looking at me in
terror. She told me to *go away/ and threw
a brush she had held in her hand at me. It
gave me the blues afterwards to think she had
gone suddenly sane, and would recognise me,
so I went to the station where she waited for
the trains, and passed her on the platform, and
she stared hard, but nothing came of it. So
there now, you've got the whole story. I sup-
pose ril get my seven years or more for this
night s work, but I'm ready ; it's been torture to
hold the secret, and poor Rice's ghost haunts
me ! " and as if the effort of making this confes-
sion had exhausted every bit of strength which
he possessed, Stanley glided from his chair on
to the ground in a dead swoon.
Judith bent over him, her tears falling thickly
upon the unconscious form. As she slipped
her arm beneath his head, she looked up into
Guy s face.
" Lose no time, Mr. Manville ; you must get
a lawyer here. What my poor husband has
just confessed must be taken down. You will
find one in Albert Square. Go, please ! "
STANLEY PRITCHARd's CONFESSION 349
And Guy went at once, like one in a dream.
He met Dora Thatchet coming home, having
been detained, under the lay-missionary's care,
and claimed her to go with him in search of a
So much has happened, darling," he said,
tenderly, as he placed her hand within his arm,
I feel I must tell you all before you see Mrs.
Pritchard again. Oh, Dora, Aubrey Rice's
innocence is about to be established. To-
morrow we will set the various agencies to
work, and advertise right and left for the poor
fellow. And to think that our little friend,
Judith Pritchard, has formed the missing link in
Meanwhile Stanley had recovered conscious-
ness, and to his confession added details which
were of the most painful interest to Judith.
His godfather had been a myth. The cheques
which he had shown her to support his cruel
falsehood were in connection with payments
made to him in reference to gambling. He had
at times been strangely fortunate, but, losing
heavily about the time of his dismissal from
Catchpool Brothers, he had fled, owing money
to several. He had gone to the senior partner s
private house when in a condition of intoxi-
cation, behaving in a way which had promptly
severed his connection with the Firm.
Oh ! my poor Judith," he said, as he laid his
350 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
head on her shoulder and sobbed, 'the way of
transgressors is hard.' I learnt that text when
I was a boy, and I've never forgotten it — never
forgotten it. I'm not the only fool who has
thrown away his life, and the worse part of it
all is, I'm not even decently sorry for having
NEWS FOR THE RECTOR
The Squire was surprised by a telegram from
Guy Manville — Important news, coming down
by evening express."
" Delightful," he exclaimed, in his pleasure,
addressing himself to the servant who, having
brought the telegram, was waiting to see if
there were any reply.
''No, Jinks, no answer required; but send
Mrs. Perks up to me ; we must give Mr.
Manville a warm welcome."
And the servant disappeared with a smiling
The genial Squire had a way of his own in
creating constant sunshine, lighting up common-
place humdrum lives until they in their turn
shed pleasant brightness around them, never
quite understanding how it chanced to happen
that such mere nothings as a smile here or a
word of praise there somehow put every one
in such a good temper.
The world is certainly the gainer by the
presence of such men as Squire Butler- Edg-
combe in the universe. If he had one gift
352 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
more than another, it was ennobling and beau-
tifying the commonplace. Asked once for his
definition of tact, his reply had been — Well,
my idea of tact is dotting life's ' is,' crossing
life's 't's,' and putting its full stops in the right
Only a man in the possession of an abundance
of tact could have given such a definition.
The marvel was how the Squire kept so
uniformly cheerful and happy living as he did,
since his wife's death, alone. Possibly the
fact of his usually solitary existence gave great
zest to the anticipated pleasure of a visit from
Guy Manville. All that day the good man
upon whose brow but few years had perceptibly
gathered since we first made his acquaintance,
looked forward with the eagerness of a child for
the evening hour which was to bring him his
visitor, and when Guy Manville was actually in
the house the Master of the Manor became "as
merrie as a cricket."
Guy waited for the butler to withdraw after
dinner before plunging into the subject upper-
most in his mind. He had come, in pre-
ference to writing, to tell the Squire of the find-
ing of Stanley Pritchard and of his confession
about the forgery. Very graphically he de-
scribed every detail. From that hour Judith,
of whom the Squire had never heard before,
became a living member in his household of
NEWS FOR THE RECTOR
friends. ** I must know that plucky little
woman ! " he had exclaimed, appreciatively.
She and that scamp of a husband of hers had
better be my guests for a week."
But I have not finished my story, Squire,"
said Guy, continuing. **The scamp of a
husband is no longer living. We had him
moved to a comfortable lodging higher up the
street in which we had the interview, and we
sent for a doctor, who said from the first he
could not last many days. He died on the
third night after that strange interview in which
I got the lawyer to take down his deposition.
I have sent it up to the Home Secretary, and
am expecting daily to hear from him. Mean-
while I have been to Scotland Yard and em-
ployed a private detective, and there are
advertisements in papers of every description ! "
''Offer a reward of ^loo to any one giving
information," said the Squire, with energy. " I
will gladly be responsible for that sum ; and,
mark you, Mr. Manville, as soon as he is found
he and his wife must make their home here. I
said once before I should want him to be with
me from time to time, but now I shall want it
for always. It will be something for the Rector
yonder to think about that his banished son-
in-law is to be the future Squire of this neigh-
bourhood, and have the gift of the parish living
in his own hands ! "
354 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
Far on into the night Guy and the Squire
discussed plans about Aubrey, and when imme-
diately after breakfast the next morning the
two parted, it was with a promise on Mr. Man-
ville's part that before long he would bring
Dora Thatchet down one Saturday to lunch.
As Guy was passing the Rectory, he saw
Mr. Hastings in his garden. Stopping the
carriage, he got out and went to him.
" I expect you will not recognise me, Mr.
Hastings, after all these years," he said, extend-
ing his hand, but you remember my father^
Lord Horrick ? I am Guy, his second son ;
unfortunately my elder brother died the summer
Come in, come in ; delighted to see you,"
the Rector said, warmly. But Guy explained
that he was hurrying to catch an express train
up to town.
What has brought you this way ? " inquired
I went down to see the Squire on busines,"
said Guy, adding confidentially, the fact is, my
dear friend Aubrey Rice is cleared from that
cruel charge which landed him in prison some
five years ago. The real culprit has made a
confession, which now lies before the Home
*'You don't say so ; very interesting, I am
sure," said Mr. Hastings, haughtily, to some
NEWS FOR THE RECTOR
people at least ; but, for myself, the young man
has long since disappeared from my hemisphere.
He acted so contrary to my advice and wishes,
and dragged my unfortunate daughter down
with him ; these things are beyond forgiveness,
Mr. Manville — beyond forgiveness ! "
Ah, I see you have not yet measured the
worth of a man like Aubrey Rice," said Guy,
unmoved. "I can only say, in spite of his
misfortunes, I should be proud to think he had
married a sister of mine. He is still young ;
and in God's good time we shall yet see him
occupying an important position in life. I hear
that in the future, how near or distant, of
course, we cannot tell, this living will be in his
This living ! " exclaimed the Rector,
drawing himself up as if to challenge the
repetition of such a gross misstatement, and
his lip curled visibly.
You forget," said Guy, laughing, how
this must come about. Perhaps you have not
heard that Aubrey Rice is the Squire's pro-
spective heir ? "
The news was like a thunderbolt to the
Rector. Guy had raised his hat and taken
his seat in the carriage and driven off before
he had in any way recovered from the first
shock of it.
On reaching town Guy lost no time in
35^ THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
writing to tell the Squire what he had done.
I am sure you will forgive me discussing your
affairs with Mr. Hastings," said he; ''but it
was a tempting opportunity in which to give
poor Aubrey a better standing in the eyes of
A day or two later and every paper in the
land had, it seemed, a paragraph affecting the
wonderful story of an innocent man cleared.
The announcement of the Home Secretary that
her Majesty had been pleased to grant Aubrey
Rice a free pardon was quickly followed by the
story of Stanley Pritchard's confession, and in
many cases the newspapers, in linking these
two important facts together, gave for the
benefit of their readers an outline of the trial,
in which the overwhelming "circumstantial
evidence " had led a British jury to condemn an
For some time after these newspaper para-
graphs had appeared, Guy Manville watched
with keen expectation the arrival of every post.
His own name had been linked with the story —
''a gentleman visitor in the East-End lodging-
houses, the discoverer of Stanley Pritchard, the
forger," and so forth, what more natural than
for Aubrey Rice to communicate with himself?
But he waited in vain. Positively nothing
happened — nothing suggestive of a clue to the
discovery of his old friend. One day a caller
NEWS FOR THE RECTOR
was announced ; a card was presented bearing-
a name quite unknown to him, but when his
eye caught the words, **a representative of
Messrs. Catchpool Brothers," he hastened,
almost gleefully, into the room where his visitor
awaited him, for the moment impressed by the
conviction that he could only come as the
bearer of news about Aubrey. Great was his
disappointment to find that the one seeking the
interview was as anxious for news of the
missing man as he was himself
It is my privilege and pleasure to wait upon
you, sir," said the gentleman in question, ''to
express on behalf of my Firm the extreme regret
at the action taken by themselves in reference
to the prosecution of Mr. Aubrey Rice at the
painful trial for forgery which took place some
five years ago. It is our intention to offer the
humblest apology to Mr. Rice when we see him
— when, I should say, he comes out from his
retreat, and takes again his place in society. If
we can do this publicly we shall be all the better
pleased. To offer compensation for the wrong
we unconsciously did him at that painful time
would be to add insult to injury ; but if he will
allow us as a Firm to hand him over a sum of five
thousand pounds as a token of our regard, and
in expression of our regret for the trouble we
caused him, we shall be honoured in the
acceptance. Later, if Mr. Rice would care to
358 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
associate himself again with our Firm we will
make suitable room for him. We shall consider
his wishes in the matter our commands. If we
could say more we would, so cruelly do we feel
the act of injustice dealt by ourselves ! "
Guy Manville was more than touched by this
earnest avowal, although he smiled to himself
as he wondered what the Squire would say to
the suggestion that Aubrey should devote his
future to a business which had indirectly been
the cause of all his misfortunes.
Having spoken thus on behalf of the Firm of
Catchpool Brothers, the representative, who was
no other than Mr. Everet-Arnold himself, led
on by the great interest displayed by Mr.
Manville, spoke in detail of Mr. Rice's residence
with the Firm, owning with real grief how, for
the time being, he personally had utterly mis-
understood him, suffering himself to be unduly
prejudiced by the one of all others, as events
had turned out, unworthy of trust.
At the close of the interview Guy Manville
promised to communicate with the Firm at the
earliest possible opportunity after his friend had
returned to them.
That he would return sooner or later Guy
never doubted. But as time went on and no
news came, he steadily set his brain to devise
plans which should mean the closest possible
search. But in spite of all the machinery which
NEWS FOR THE RECTOR
was set working in this direction, the weeks and
months glided by and no clue was found to lead
to the discovery of Aubrey Rice and his wife.
North, south, east, and west, Guy Manville
searched the slums of the metropolis. That the
two were in hiding, and cut off from intercourse
with the world generally, was all too evident, or
why the silence after all the publicity which had
^ been given to the case ? Possibly this view of
the matter was due to Stanley Pritchard's story
about seeing Aubrey. He had given details to
Judith, during the few days in which he lived
after he had been placed in the lodgings in
Bromley Street, Stepney, of the chase he had
had after the man addressing envelopes. He
was absolutely positive this man was no other
than Aubrey Rice. Hence Guy Manville
somewhat readily fell into the belief that
possibly now, as then, Aubrey would be in
I somewhat straitened and needy circum-
F stances ; indeed, might they not be more
straitened and needy because longer time
had elapsed ? Alas ! who can measure or
define the limits of poverty when the drift
downwards has actually set in, and who could
venture to predict where exactly such drifting
is likely to end !
After a while Guy was joined in his peregrin-
ations through the lower quarters of the city
by one of his college friends, who, with means
360 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
and leisure at his disposal, although not claim-
ing Manville s Christian principle and purpose,
"had a mind" to see for himself something
of the ''submerged tenth." But the toil was
apparently all lost. Across the enterprise and
efforts made in all directions the word failure"
might have been written. Sometifnes Guy-
wondered if those whom they sought had
passed beyond their reach ; had they died,
crushed beneath their overwhelming trouble ?
Then came the hope that, in spite of difficulties,
they had found their chance and gone abroad.
From that day the numerous advertisements
which appeared in the newspapers from time to
time, put in to catch the eye of Aubrey Rice,
had invariably the words attached, Foreign
papers, please copy."
THE MAN WITH A PLATE
One night the future Lord Horrick and his old
college friend, by this time much absorbed in
his study of the ''submerged tenth," found
themselves in the historic neighbourhood of
Soho Square. The determination to visit this
immediate vicinity had come about from over-
hearing a chance remark in an omnibus. Two
ladies had been in animated conversation.
They sat side by side and spoke in lowered
tones. Suddenly one exclaimed in a voice
raised by excitement, " Yes, I have often
heard the same thing ; if you want to find a lost
friend who has drifted down in life, look for him
within a stone's throw of Soho Square! It is the
haunt of the aristocratic victim of misfortune."
" Who knows," said Guy afterwards to his
companion, " but that we might at least hear
something of poor Rice there, even if we did
not actually come across him? We could make
inquiries as we have done in the far East, and
by some happy chance, some clue might be
So the following evening the two friends
2 A 361
362 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
found their way to the spot in question. Those
who do not know anything personally of this
most interesting neighbourhood cannot con-
ceive the strange fascination of walking down
streets which in bygone days were associated
with names so well known to fame — Hogarth,
Charles Lamb, Mendelssohn, the original
Novello, and a score of others.
It was a close evening in June, not a breeze
or breath stirring to relieve the oppression of
the atmosphere, an evening when one instinc-
tively longs for the country, if one's thoughts
are free to wander, as certainly' Guy Manville's
were not at that moment. He could not
explain the fact, but never before in the weary
search for Aubrey Rice had he felt quite the same
hopefulness as to results as on this special occa-
sion. Had he defined his reasons for this, he
would probably have fallen back upon the initial
circumstance of the case, namely, that the ground
was altogether new to him. Eastwards and
westwards he had been, but never before had
this immediate district, with the special neigh-
bourhood lying between it and the Strand,
come under his notice.
As Guy and his friend sauntered leisurely
along the hot pavement, observing with
astonishment the mansion-like houses, and
noting with interest the names of the streets,
Gibson Rhodes ventured the remark, The
THE MAN WITH A PLATE
Hebrew brother seems very much in evidence
here ! I cannot think your old friend would
willingly take up his residence amongst them.
You remember from our previous experience
we find, after all, that Christians and Hebrews
seldom patronise the same locality ; where one
is a marked feature the other will be missing.
Of course, now we are here, it will be well to
look round a bit ; but, my dear fellow, I do
beseech you, cut it short ; this fragrant neigh-
bourhood is even less inviting than many of
your favourite spots 'down East.'"
You offered to come with me," said Guy,
cheerfully ; ''stick to your bargain, old fellow.
I mean to have a thorough look round, now
I am here ! "
Gibson Rhodes sighed.
" So like you, Manville, never to say die.
Well, I would feel less depressed, I daresay,
at the present moment if only just to oblige us
the thermometer were to be lowered 20
degrees. Just look at these people's faces. Did
you ever see despair written more plainly ? "
The statement was too true to be contra-
dicted. The hot evening had brought men
and women to their doors. Those of advanced
years looked strangely weary and dispirited,
while the younger ones, particularly the men,
loungers at street corners and outside public-
houses, had faces which for the most part wore
364 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
that pitiable expression which denotes the aim-
lessness and hopelessness of a life which has
But Guy was quick to call his friend's atten-
tion to the children playing about, many of
whom were strikingly beautiful, and all looked
for the most part healthy and well cared for —
a marked contrast to the street children of
Whitechapel and Shadwell.
" Now, do notice," said Guy, as they paused
and watched two lads chasing each other,
twisting and turning about from one side of the
street to the other, backwards and forwards, as
if the village green and not the hot London
pavement were their playground, " these
youngsters about here will contrast with
definite advantage with country children of
like age. These have an intelligence which
those lack. I am quite convinced that the
average city child possesses a measure of
vitality unknown to its apparently more
favoured country cousin. You see, with these
youngsters, every hour of the day is doing its
work of education, admittedly not always of the
most healthful kind ; whereas, with the village
child, lack of variety, shop windows, with their
endless objects of interest ; the cry of the news-
paper boy sharpening the wits which try to
take in up-to-date news ; and the hundred and
one things which go to make up city life ;
THE MAN WITH A PLATE
the lack of variety has at least the tendency
to leave the brain a little sleepy, and the fullest
capacity of enjoyment undeveloped."
''Ah! now I come to think of it," observed
Gibson Rhodes, suddenly noticing that they had
turned into Frith Street, I had an interesting
book in my hand the other day — Card well's
' Two Centuries in Soho ' — it was when calling
on a friend in Russell Square (and I only
glanced at it while waiting for her ladyship to
appear), but I distinctly recall an allusion to
Frith Street, once, in the good old times, known
as Thrifty Street."
'* I think the change of name, or rather the
fact that it has been changed, is very sugges-
tive," said Guy, glad to find his friend had
found something to be interested in. ''It looks
as if, in giving up the wholesome word ' Thrifty,'
one could hear a sort of wail : the better condi-
tions of life had no place here ; the scramble to
live precluded saving of all kinds ; take a name
that sounds something like it, but which offers
no insult to poverty. Stay, stop a moment ;
look at that man crossing the road. Gibson,
t^a^'s Aubrey Rice. Good heavens ! how
Guy's sudden excitement was due to his
attention fixing itself at that moment upon a
man who had just passed them, coming out of a
fish shop, and was making his way to the other
366 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
side of the street, carrying most carefully a
plate covered by a piece of newspaper. Upon
this his eyes were fixed very intently.
As I never happened to see even a photo-
graph of your friend, I'm not in a position to
deny what you say," said Gibson Rhodes in
answer, but it strikes me that yon poor fellow
doesn't look much like a gentleman by birth;
but there's no telling how one's misfortunes may
alter a man ! "
**If it's not Rice, WTeck as the man looks, I
will never trust my own eyes again ! " exclaimed
Guy, impulsively. He must be forgiven talking
in exaggerated tones. The weary months of
long searching in which not even one ray of
hope had come to cheer him made the present
moment one of sublime excitement. Some one
so like the man sought for, allowing for the
difference which his misfortunes must have
caused, was actually before him. Without even
one inquiry in the various lodging-houses
towards which Guy was at that moment making
his way, there was the man.
Let us follow him," said Manville ; "it
would be a pity to make a scene in the
street ; he is too intent upon what he is
carrying to notice us." Guy spoke as one
labouring under great excitement. And well it
might be so, for at least he believed himself at
last to have found the man who at a word from
THE MAN WITH A PLATE
himself would find all life changed to him — one
moment bearing the brand of the criminal, the
next restored to his rights as a free and honour-
able member of society.
They crossed the road, following closely the
poor fellow, whose footsteps dragged, perhaps
more from hopelessness and mental weariness
than from actual physical tiredness. His head
was bent down over the plate he carried, but as
he turned a corner to the left into Church Street,
which is noted as being situated between the
historic church of St. Anns' and the modernly
erected Palace Theatre, either building standing
out boldly at their respective ends, Guy caught
another glimpse of his face. This time he was
more sure than even at the first that the man
they were following was none other than the
man they had sought by every means to trace
— Aubrey Rice.
Neither spoke after that. Gibson Rhodes
forgot about the sultry atmosphere, forgot his
haste to quit the neighbourhood, forgot almost
his' interest in the man whom it was the desire
to hunt to ground ; the absorbing thought to
him at that moment was his friend, Guy
Manville. How would he bear his disap-
pointment when he found they had been
following a Will-o'-the-wisp," for, by the
utmost stretch of the imagination, how could
any one believe that that poor, miserable-look-
368 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
ing fellow could claim at one time to have
been a man of education and culture ? Guy
Manville's excitement was positively touching.
Gibson wished his friend's fiancee. Miss
Thatchet, could see him at that moment.
The expression on his face was almost
" Ah, his Christianity is the genuine article,"
he mused. I know he has prayed a good
deal about finding his friend, and he has got it
into his head that his prayer is about to be
answered. . .
Meanwhile a few doors down to the left, the
man followed had paused, standing aside to let
some people pass him before entering the door
of a somewhat imposing-looking house. Guy
quickened his footsteps and Gibson Rhodes
kept up with him. The followed man had
entered, and the door closed just as his pursuers
reached it, but it was soon seen that, though
shut, the said door was not latched. Guy
gently pushed it open, and as it swung back
they found themselves in quite a wide passage
of a four-storeyed house. True, the first impres-
sion was one suggesting that this well-built
house, like so many people of the district, had
once known better days. Its frescoed walls,
faded, and in some places defaced completely ;
the oaken staircase visibly much dilapidated ;
the general air of shabby gentility about the
THE MAN WITH A PLATE
place removed it far above an ordinary and
modernly - built lodging - house or tenement-
And now the question was, what had become
of the man with the plate ? There was not a
trace of him to be seen, and yet no time had
He has made more haste inside than he did
out," remarked Guy, "or he could not have
packed himself away so quickly. But as this
seems to be an open house what is to hinder us
from mounting the staircase and knocking at the
first door we come to ? "
And upon this Guy started to put his sugges-
tion into action. Before, however, he had
reached the first landing, a little golden-haired
girl came out from a room, the door of which
was speedily closed after her exit, and as she
waited for him to complete his mount ere she
commenced to descend, he found a chance of
asking her a few questions.
Have you some one living here named
Rice ? " he said, so standing that the child
addressed could not pass him until he moved
out of her way.
No one," was the concise reply.
"Perhaps," suggested Gibson, "you may
not know the names of all who live here.'^
There will surely be more than one family in
this large house ? "
370 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
" Yes, indeed," said the child, laughing ;
there are eight families here — one for each
room. It's only last week that the Jones' left.
When worked in Covent Garden they did
the swell and hired two rooms — back and
front landing above this ; but times got awful
bad with them, and they removed off to the
buildings in Charing Cross Road, and their
rooms have been let to two sets. I almost
forget their names, Simmons or Simond, or
something of that sort. Those are the people
in the front, and at the back it's Salt. I
shouldn't forget that name, because it's so easy,
isn't it ? "
Who, then, lives in the room next the one
you have just come from ? " asked Gibson
Rhodes, very much interested in noticing the
graceful manners and gentle tones of the little
girl before them.
Oh ! " was the reply, that's another set of
Jones'. They are very poor, because the
father's a cripple, you see. He does next to
nothing ; but the parson, he comes to see him,
and he's very good to him. Sometimes his
lady sends him broken victuals from the
Rectory. Everybody knows he would work if
he could, so we kind of feel glad when he's
Well, now, you have told us the names of
all upon the two top floors — that is this one and
THE MAN WITH A PLATE 37 1
one above. But are there not rooms just below
us near the entrance ? "
It was Guy Manville again who put the
question ; this time he spoke more deliberately.
Was he losing hope ?
They're the Martins and the Cholmneys,"
was the quick reply. Old Mr. Cholmney used
to play the organ beautiful. Once he got the
verger to blow for him in St. Ann's, and we
children, I mean me and my two brothers,
heard him give it those key-notes fine. He
hammered and scolded and shook them like
anything — it was just like a thunderstorm ;
then all of a sudden the sun was a-shining — I
mean it sounded as if it had become a lovely
summer evening, and Jack and me said we
could hear the birds twittering in the trees as
they got ready for bed, like we used to hear
them when we lived in the country, and we
could smell the new-mown hay and the wall-
flower and mignonette that grew in grandad's
garden. Oh, it was grand ! "
And the child's eyes were glistening with
animated feeling, and her little chest heaved
as she came to a sudden stop in her description.
And where is Mr. Cholmney now?" said
Oh, he used to drink," said the child, in
lowered voice, ''and he got ill and was took to
the Infirmary and died."
372 T^flE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
It was impossible not to be touched by this
vividly - depicted narrative. At any other
moment Guy would have been content to
question and cross-question the little girl if
only to hear her speak and get more of her
picture-illustrations, but he was impatient to
run to earth the man with a plate.
I think, perhaps, there are rooms down-
stairs, are there not ? " he suggested.
Oh, yes ; the kitchens, they let for four
shillings a week," was the quick reply.
*' Widow Smith has the back. She's been
bad with bronchitis, and the nurse comes to
see her. Then in the front there's a lot of
little children who've got no mother, only a
sister and father to take care of them. Oh ! I
forgot they cleared out last week. It's some
new people who've got that kitchen ; and
there's somebody ill there, only I don't think
" Thank you for all you have told me," said
Guy, adding, as he slipped half a crown into the
little girl's hand, "you must put this in your
money-box, and some day I hope we may see
The little girl in question dropped a low
curtsey, a movement which proclaimed her
country born and bred, then she hurried back
into her one-roomed home to tell mother " of
the great gift she had had.
THE MAN WITH A PLATE
Meanwhile Guy and Gibson retraced their
steps and quickly regained the entrance passage.
From this they found their way to the kitchen
flight of stairs. It was very dark and they had
to grope their way slowly, cautiously. Anxious
to perform the feat noiselessly, they descended
the ten or twelve steps which led to the kitchen.
No open door from below lighted them, no
window from above.
''This is what I call 'walking by faith,' with
a vengeance," said Gibson, in a whisper.
" My friend, vengeance and faith will not run
together," replied Guy, who was leading the
way. "If you must talk, be more careful with
His tones were very cheery, even while
hushed. It had a most stimulating effect upon
Guy to be so near to the man who, if not his
long-lost friend Aubrey Rice — supposing he,
after all, was labouring under a delusion — was
so like him that the resemblance even brought
some relief to the long suspense of the hitherto,
unsuccessful search. At length the door of the
kitchen to the premises was safely reached. It
took a moment or two to be sure of their bear-
ings, but, when he was, Guy knocked softly ;
then, failing to get an answer, a litde louder.
There was a sound of movement within — only
the replacing of a chair — then muffled tones,
gentle persuasion and enfeebled remonstrance,.
374 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
a voice, the deeper one of the two, getting
more distinct as it neared the door. A moment
later and the door was opened.
Come in, doctor," said the one from within,
''you are a little before your time. Excuse my
having kept you waiting."
But the one supposed to be the doctor never
moved. Guy Manville stood riveted to the
spot; Gibson Rhodes, behind him, hidden away
in the darkness.
As the door opened the evening light came
through the two windows (which were about
level with the pavement outside from which
they were separated by an ordinary grating),
revealing very clearly every object in the room
which Guy was invited to enter. A bed backed
the wall which faced the light ; upon this lay a
sick woman ; by her side was a table, covered
by a spotlessly white cloth, and upon this
table stood the plate of fish which had been
so carefully carried home. The room was in
perfect ordeT, its scant furniture giving it an air
of neatness which a better furnished room would
possibly have lacked.
All this Guy took in at a glance as his eyes
grew somewhat accustomed to the light.
The one who had bidden him enter stood a
little to the side, holding the door in his hands.
He was glancing at his sick wife, when a few
words from the one for whom he held the door
THE MAN WITH A PLATE
open caused him to turn round quickly with a
muffled cry of dismay. The words which
had so affected him were these —
''Aubrey, old chap, we have found you at
last. Praise God ! "
THESE DAYS AND THOSE
It was three years after the events narrated
in the last chapter, on a certain morning in
December, that the Squire of Edgcombe Manor
House paced his Hbrary with hurried and
excited footsteps. Again and again he paused,
and, raising his hand to his brow, and reverently
bending his head, ejaculated short sentences of
prayer. Lord spare the mother for the child's
sake and the child for the mother's. Oh,
God, give my more than son, Aubrey, the joy
of fatherhood ! He is worthy. We are such a
united family. Thou knowest. For Christ,
Thy Son's sake, don't separate us yet awhile."
The old man grew comforted while thus lift-
ing his thoughts heavenwards, and, as time
wore on, his restlessness ceased. He had taken
his seat by the window, watching for fully half
an hour a heavy fall of snow, when the library
door suddenly opened, and Aubrey Rice entered.
He came in with more of the eagerness and
animation of the old Aubrey than the Squire
had seen in the three years he and his wife had
THESE DAYS AND THOSE
been residing at the Manor House. His face
was all aglow with new life, new light.
little son, Squire," he said in buoyant
tones ; then he walked to the window, from
which Mr. Butler- Edgcombe had moved away
on hearing the door open, and pressed his
forehead against the glass, in vain struggling
with his emotion.
The Squire, assuming to take no notice, rang
the bell, and, on the butler's answering it, said
quickly, Send Morris to the verger's at once,
and ask him to arrange for the church bells to
ring a peal. Tell him a little son has arrived
at the Manor House."
And Jinks' face was almost as beaming as his
master's as he hastened off to do the Squire's
And now a strange thing happened. The
Rector had two years previously had a partial
stroke of paralysis, recovering from it in
measure, but only to sink into the deepest
depression from which they had in vain sought
to rouse him. He would sit for hours silent and
unemployed ; if questions were put to him he,
more often than not, only answered by nodding
or shaking his head. A curate had been
appointed to take charge until his recovery or
until he resigned the living. Previous to this
stroke Gertrude had sent him a little note
simply asking — it was on their return from the
378 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
Continent after the first visit with the Squire —
if she might come and see him, to receive a curt
reply — '*It would be well for Mrs. Aubrey Rice
to remember the conditions she herself accepted
some years ago. The Rector had no intention
of forgetting them," by which Gertrude read
that her request had been refused.
To-day, as the church bells broke out into a
joyful peal, Mr. Hastings looked up from his
arm-chair, where he had sat motionless and
unoccupied ever since the breakfast table had
been cleared, and said quickly, ''What now?"
*' Gertrude has a little son," said his daughter
Jane, who had just come into the room at the
time. **Your grandchild, father," and she
stooped down and kissed her fathers brow,
as if in mute congratulation.
Then suddenly the Rector got up from his
chair, unaided, and exclaimed excitedly, " Send
for Aubrey and ask the Squire to come too, or,
better still, take me there."
Now it chanced that Gertrude saw her
sisters almost every week at church, but, fearing
to offend their father, not one of them had been
to the Manor House. Hence it happened that
the Rector's request threw the girls — all were
at home — into a state of unbounded delight.
It was quickly decided for Jane to accompany
him, and no time was lost in getting the
brougham round. Fortunately the horse had
THESE DAYS AND THOSE
only an hour or two previously been "roughed"
in case he might be required to take either of
the young ladies to the railway station.
The Rector was all eagerness to get into a
greatcoat which hung up in the hall near
enough to the oil -stove to be considered
aired, and which had not been worn for over
Jane lost no time in getting ready. Many
and many a time she had in the past sought
to say a word for Gertrude, though all in vain,
until the Rector had forbidden her name ever
to be mentioned to him again. Surely, thought
Jane, the birth of a little grandchild had come
like summer sunshine to banish all the mists of
The Squire and Aubrey noticed the Rectory
carriage driving slowly through the snow.
" Some one comes to make inquiries after the
young mother," said the Squire.
'*It is the Rector himself," said Aubrey,
solemnly, and he at once left the room and
descended to the hall. The Rector's conduct
had been both brutal and barbarous, unjusti-
fiable by the search-light of either Christianity
or civilisation. But what cared Aubrey at this
moment! A little child was born into the
world, and, by some mysterious and reverent
association of ideas with the Babe of centuries
ago, it had brought with it peace and good-
380 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
You have come to congratulate us, Rector,"
Aubrey had said, going at once to the old-
fashioned and somewhat of a heavy lumbering
style of carriage, the door of which he opened,
extending his hand to the occupier.
I have, I have, humbly, and with deep
thankfulness," was the tearful response.
And upon that came the Squire, and insisted
the Rector should come in ; and then Aubrey
was all anxiety with the solicitude of a devoted
son lest Mr. Butler- Edgcombe should take
cold, and the persuasive tones were mostly
Aubrey's, and were divided between hospitable
welcome on the one hand and earnest pleading
to get away from the cold on the other. And
all the time the bells were ringing a joyous
The Rector had not wanted much persuading.
His daughter Jane was quick to ask Aubrey to
give him just the help required to meet the
needs of restricted movement. And thus did a
humbled Rector cease from anger and forsake
wrath. To the two men who did him honour
but one thought was uppermost in their minds.
This was Gertrude's father ; Gertrude would
be pleased," but it would come to each later the
deep thankfulness that the long-broken friend-
ship between the Manor House and the Rectory
had that day been repaired.
It was the Squire and Jane Hastings who
THESE DAYS AND THOSE 38 1
did most of the talking at the luncheon table.
Aubrey spoke when necessary, but his power to
keep up a flowing conversation had never
returned to him since ''those days." When first
coming to the Manor House, the day following
that memorable evening when Guy Manville
found them in Soho, Aubrey had needed as
much care and nursing as Gertrude. The
Squire had put the west wing entirely at their
disposal, and for quite three months they
scarcely left their prescribed quarters. Gradu-
ally and by degrees they became once more
accustomed to the ways and surroundings of
refined and cultured society. Of all they had
gone through and suffered in those terrible forty
months in hiding they never spoke except to
Guy and his wife Dora, who were frequent
visitors at the Manor House. They had early
heard the story, from the start (the night of
escape) to the bitter end.
Aubrey had succeeded, quite early in the
history of the time following his escape from
prison, in filling a position suddenly vacated in
an office in Euston Road by a young man who
was lodging where they did in Bloomsbury, a
boarding-house with easy terms. He had gone
with the news of the young man's sudden illness
and had been offered the work until his re-
covery. Later, when it was found that the
young clerk in question must have a sea voyage
382 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
before he could possibly return to the office,
Aubrey's appointment passed from temporary"
to ''permanent the employer did not care to
keep the position open ; if his friend, who passed
under the name of Sam Hilliery, cared to settle
down he could.
Aubrey had cared very much to do so, but,
unfortunately, in the fourth month it was
decided, in order to meet the requirements of
increasing business, to take on a second clerk,
and alas ! for the poor escaped convict, who
should that be but a young fellow who had
been one of the junior apprentices at Catch-
pool Brothers during Aubrey's time with the
Had he been an older or more reliable man
it might have been possible to have taken him
into his confidence and have made him his
friend, but the risk was too great. Aubrey
grew nervous at the mere thought. He had
seen the correspondence which had followed a
personal interview when Aubrey had not been
present ; and on the day of the young man's
coming to take up his duties he had met him
on the landing as he was about to pass into
With a start the new-comer had exclaimed,
" Why, it must be Mr. Rice, only — "
** My name is Sam Hilliery," said Aubrey,
trying to steady his voice ; "and yours ? "
THESE DAYS AND THOSE
Well, I never saw such a wonderful likeness
before," continued the new-comer. Of course,
you heard of that dreadful case of forgery,
Catchpool Brothers, October twelve months.
My ! it was a set out ; the young fellow was all
in a hurry to get married, and as funds were
low — it's a pretty stiff business taking and fur-
nishing a house, you see — he helped himself,
you know, to what wasn't his."
By this time they had entered the office, and
there was nothing to hinder a long recital of the
Excuse me," interrupted Aubrey, **but we
come here for work, and have no time for
gossip ! "
I see you know all about it," said the young
man with a sneer, as at that moment the
employer came from an inner office, and greeted
him courteously as a new-comer.
Aubrey's life was a terror to him that day.
He had known next to nothing of this
apprentice when at Catchpool's, but had the
impression that he was not thought too well of,
the probable cause of his having no longer
any connection with the Firm. Supposing he
was led to talk to others of the wonderful
forgery case," as would be natural, and
some one had chanced to see that the convicted
man had escaped from prison, and that the
police were searching for him, what was to
384 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
hinder the young fellow growing suddenly-
important by going up to Scotland Yard and
telling the authorities there that a man in his
office was the very image of the one wanted ? :
The risk was too great, and the anxiety
associated with it would be too severe a strain.
There seemed no help for it ; he must leave.
So, on the second day, Gertrude had an interview
with the manager, saying her husband had been
called suddenly to the death-bed of his father
down in the country, and would be pleased to
put a man in his place, as she was sure business
would keep him away, if not altogether, for an
indefinite time. She had only stayed behind to
bring this message, and now she must follow
her husband with all speed.
Gertrude had met with but scant courtesy.
''Just the way if you take on a man of
whom you practically know nothing ; bound to
be something unexpected happen. He did not
believe a word of her story. Her husband was
on the drink. Why didn't she own up at
once ? " and so forth.
Poor Gertrude had left the office humbled
to the dust. It had cost her something to utter
so glibly these terrible falsehoods, but what was
to be done? Until the truth came out which
would establish Aubrey's innocence, how could
they be open and above board " — as her
husband phrased it — in their conduct ? To one
THESE DAYS AND THOSE 385
of Gertrude's temperament this was after all a
very heavy price to pay for "liberty, sweet
Then had followed a series of misfortunes.
Oh, how quickly one evil lands you into
another ! It was utterly impossible for Aubrey
to get work of a suitable kind, with a fair
salary, without reference or testimonial. There
were, to a man free to move about without
dreading daylight detection, many odd and
chance positions to fill when the unexpected
had happened, and an extra hand was required,
but even then the one seeking employment
would be casually known to some one else. It
was the need to stand alone, to be absolutely
isolated, which presented the chief difficulty in
For a while Aubrey had managed to pick
up a little special book-keeping, working for
small tradespeople, who were glad to have
their weekly accounts made out for them ; but
the pay was terribly inadequate to the time
expended, often only averaging threepence an
hour. A shilling for four hours' work would
be accounted smart remuneration " by the
one who knew, by a little effort on his part, he
could have managed the whole thing himself
This temporary starvation wage had led to
other difficulties. With such bad pay it had
been quite impossible to live any longer in two
386 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
rooms — the boarding-house plan had long ago
been given up — whence one had been taken.
And so the story, as told to Guy and
It is not our intention to trace poor Aubrey
and his faithful wife through their quick and
calamitous down-drifting. Enough to say,
starting with HOPE, spelt with capital letters,
they grew in time to be utterly despondent.
Existence itself became a burden because of
enfeebled health. Deeper and deeper in despair
they sank, looking each other in the face with
dumb questioning, How much lower can we
sink ? " They had no heart to read even a
newspaper ; to talk with a neighbouring lodger
was out of the question. At least they could
keep their secret safe while sharing it with none ;
and better almost that life itself should end than
for those who knew them in the past to realise
how deplorably outcast their condition of
And so they sank to the level of the destitute.
Envelope-directing was at last Aubrey's chief
means of finding bare sustenance, and this of
the poorest kind. This work never failed him,
but health often limited the power to get through
it to any very great extent.
From this low land of the severest mental
anguish and depression that human beings
could ever be called upon to suffer, there stood
THESE DAYS AND THOSE 387
out clearly defined two headlands of variety.
The one was the unexpected meeting with
Stanley Pritchard, from whose pursuit Aubrey
had fled as for dear life ; the other a letter from
The latter incident came about on this wise.
Moving for the tenth or twelfth time into a
new locality, some chance happening causing
Aubrey's sensitive mind unrest — an over-
inquisitive neighbour, close questioning from
the agent who collected the rent, or a more
steadfast gaze than usual from a passing police-
man being quite sufficient reason to make a
change desirable — they got into the kindly
hands of a city missionary.
Convinced that the young couple, so silent
as to their personal history, so superior in
every way to their environment, were worthy
of a helping hand, good old Mr. Larkins
suggested one day that if only Mr. Hilliery
could produce a reference from a clergyman
he could put him into a clerk's place — he could
himself see to suitable clothing — where he
would be factotum to an elderly man losing
his eyesight. His duties were to sit in a back
parlour of a small shop in Booksellers' Row
and write letters at his employer's dictation,
make and correct catalogues of books, with
the purchase and sale of which he had nothing
whatever to do. For this he would be paid
388 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
eighteen shillings a week and get his dinner
and tea thrown in. The hours were from ten
To Aubrey this sounded suggestive of a
haven of rest. How many weary miles did he
walk in a week, bringing envelopes home to be
addressed and taking them back ? (Never since
the encounter with Stanley Pritchard dare he
venture to the men's club-room in Drury Lane,
where, by paying a few coppers weekly to the
deputy, he was allowed special permission to
privileges supposed to be exclusively the
lodgers'. This had saved his steps and made
work easier in many ways, hence his earnings
had been better week by week.)
But how was this reference to be secured ?
To whom could he possibly make application ?
Gertrude, in sheer desperation, hit upon a plan.
She would write to her father, stating the case
briefly. For his own sake he would not, how-
ever angry, dare to make use of the informa-
tion and bring Aubrey to the notice of the
police. His heart might be touched, for, after
all, was she not his own child, his own flesh
and blood ?
Aubrey was difficult to persuade that the plan
would answer, but Gertrude's tearful pleading
won the day, and the letter was sent. Oh,
what a letter it was ! How full of silent pathos,
how dignified in the bare mention of the fact
THESE DAYS AND THOSE. 389
that as an escaped prisoner it was necessary to
remain in hiding until the actual perpetrator of
the crime confessed his wrong-doing. How-
pathetic the plea : For my dead mother's sake,
help us by speaking kindly of Aubrey to the
one who will write to you, and so securing
work which will considerably lessen our present
To this letter Gertrude had received no
answer. Again and again she had called at the
post office to which she had asked for any reply
to be addressed. She had given her assumed
name. Meanwhile the city missionary came
round to their one-roomed tenement to say he
had heard from the clergyman, and he was sorry
to say the reference was not satisfactory.
Pressed to show the correspondence, he pro-
duced the letter, which read thus —
" Sir, — I regret I can say nothing good of
Mr. S. Hilliery. Whether he goes under his
own name or the one he has for purposes best
known to himself assumed, he is a man I hold
in sovereign contempt. — Yours faithfully,
Thus died out from the hearts of these two
troubled souls the last ray of hope . . .
And yet was not the Rev. Archibald Hastings,
M.A., Rector, more to be pitied than they.-*
390 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
After this had come Gertrude's illness, long
and tedious, the illness which comes through
mental strain and heart disappointment, and
their removal later to Soho, Aubrey still earning
what money he had time and strength to make
at that monotonous toil of addressing envelopes.
Having told their story, Guy urged upon
them to, as far as possible, dismiss the past from
their minds. Let them both devote themselves
to the good Squire, who was so determined to
leave them in the full enjoyment of his wealth
when the time came for him to go from earthly
And with returning health there had come the
power to throw off dismal memories. Two
or three trips to the Continent came later, for
a few weeks at a time, when the Squire accom-
panied them as eager as a child to see the
things he had heard of and read about. Then
had come a longer journey, and this, in part,
the Squire s own planning, although it would
deprive him for the space of three months, at
least, of the companionship upon which he was
learning so much to depend : they crossed the
Atlantic to renew the acquaintance of the chief
warder and Amy, giving cheer and practical
expression of gratitude to those who so richly
deserved to be remembered. Aubrey felt free
to bestow gifts worthy of acceptance since the
compensation cheque had been handed over to
THESE DAYS AND THOSE 39 1
him by the Firm of Catchpool Brothers, with
many sincere expressions of regret for the past,
and most advantageous offers for the future
should he honour the Firm by becoming
associated with *it once more " — overtures not
Hkely for a moment to be entertained, as the
heir of Edgcombe Manor had duties ready to
assert themselves in other directions so soon as
he was equal to the demand.
Long before this the good farmer and his
wife from South Hill had been invited to the
Manor House, spending a most enjoyable three
days, all the time that could be spared from
the farm, and receiving on their departure a
sealed packet not to be opened until their return
home, iVubrey's pleasant little plan of dis-
charging a debt of some standing. The packet
was afterwards discovered to contain ;^ioo in
Bank of England notes, a slip of paper giving
the explanation, '' For board and lodging and in
acknowledgment of kindness received," with a
certain memorable date.
Meanwhile the Squire had said that it only
needed good Inspector Benson to complete the
little family party. At which both Mr. and
Mrs. Sheppard had looked grave, so impos-
sible was it for them to lose the memory of
that night's anxiety. No, even though legally
in possession of the freedom to which he had
fullest right, it was still expedient, in the inter-
392 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
ests of Others, to leave untold the romantic
associations of No. 75 s wonderful escape.
And so to this day the prison authorities and
officials will have it that the unfortunate man
who made the drop of 30 feet in order to effect
his escape must have injured himself for life,
probably shortened his existence by some few
years, although no record of his injuries was
before the public when Aubrey Rice's free
pardon was declared and subsequently claimed.
Nor was old Sarah, the faithful servant, for-
gotten. With some difficulty she was found
(having changed her address no less than seven
times) in enfeebled health ; indeed, very much
broken in mind as well as body.
" She was so good to my mother," said
Aubrey, as he gave the Squire some details of
their call upon the poor woman.
And to me * Mrs. Rice, junior,' as she
would call me all in a breath," said Gertrude.
I have the highest regard for that poor old
body, and when I think how she puzzled the
doctor about the exact business which had
called Aubrey away, and kept him without his
right address — he told me all about it after I
got better — I quite love her for her loyalty."
**Then, my dear lady," said the Squire,
warmly, rubbing his hands as he spoke, '*it
shall rest with you to send her the invitation
to come to No. 5 Edgcombe Alms Houses,
THESE DAYS AND THOSE
that one being vacant, and take up her abode
amongst us. She has no need to refer to
the troubled past in her intercourse with the
other inmates. We know how well she can
keep a secret, all we remember of her — -I mean
you and your husband ; vou think she's a worthy
recipient of Alms House bounties ? "
Indeed we do ! No one more so ! " ex-
claimed Aubrey and Gertrude almost in one
Then that settles the matter," said the
Squire, beaming. It was a singular pleasure to
him just now to make plans which seemed to
bind the two, who were so much to him to-day,
more closely to his own personal life and
It would be many years before Aubrey
was called to take his place as Squire of the
Manor, and long before this event Guy would
have come into the title of Lord Horrick, and
Judith, Stanley Pritchard's widow, having
passed through her hospital training, would be
matron of a convalescent home in Devonshire;
but the intervening years were full of abundant
interest. Baby feet pattered about the old
Manor House ; with charming audacity roguish
little people claimed Grandpapa's study" for a
nursery in preference to the one Nurse called
their own. Baby voices made sweet music in
the long picture gallery, unmindful of the
394 THE ROMANCE OF AN EMERGENCY
solemn portraits frowning down upon them.
Baby hearts generated a wealth of love which
freshened and made fragrant the home-life
atmosphere around them.
Certainly the Squire had a very happy old
age. Far and wide his goodness to the unforunate
and poverty-stricken would be talked about,
with endless illustrations, more or less true to
life ; and if at times the old cronies, enjoying
the privileges of his Alms Houses, told the story
to new-comers of that wonderful marriage
between Miss Matilda Edgcombe and the
butler, it was sure to end with a warm God
bless him ! Yon Manor House has never
boasted a better Squire ! "
Which says a good deal for
The Romance of an Emergency ! "
William Hodge & Co., Printers, Glasgow and Edinburgh.